Thursday, November 30


Dear Spaz in the carpool lane,

Just because the other four lanes are backed up in major traffic doesn't mean you have to slow down. See, the whole reason the carpool lane exists is so we high and mighty carpoolers can fly by them shouting "suckas" at the top of our lungs without a pang of guilt. You seem to have trouble with this concept. Slowing us carpoolers down won't make the others feel better. I suggest you stay in all that traffic if you want to drive 40 mph when NOBODY is in front of you for miles. You were extremely annoying this morning and I wish you'd handle your guilt on your own and leave us out of it.



Wednesday, November 29

Forgive me Father for I have sinned:

I admit it, I snapped. I've been hearing about the Kelly Ripa vs Clay Aiken flap for several days and I just had to check it out online. I've spent the last 20 minutes watching all of the footage on YouTube. I'm not proud. I feel dirty.

Not that any of this matters but I can now say with some authority that a) Kelly was right b) Clay was combative and is in desperate need of non-stop praise c) Rosie is nuts.

Tuesday, November 28

Lighten up, Francis.

I was sort of on a tear today. Possibly PMS, possibly just me being me.

We've been in our new building for a few weeks now and I still haven't seen any sign of a recycling program. This bugs me for several reasons but mostly because my company promotes environmentally sound programs for commuters and , I thought, recycling but... well, I'm just not seeing any love for the planet. I decided to look into it.

After about 30 minutes of searching I finally found someone who is in charge of our environmental program. I told her that I was disappointed in our lack of recycling. I pointed, for instance, that we had four trash cans in the kitchen but nothing for bottles, plastic etc. She explained that our city does the sorting. I was suspicious. I pretty much said "Oh, come on. Do they really do that?" She assured me that not only do they do it but they have a higher rate of success because there is no education to get out. Other cities fight to educate citizens on how to recycle and even then they don't always participate. This way everyone participates.

Hmm, well then how about all of the paper I waste everyday. Is that being recycled, I wondered. Well, that is supposed to go into a shredder. We keep individual recycling baskets at our desks and it's up to us to deposit our "clean" paper in the big recycling can. Ok, I can handle that.

I asked why nobody was telling us all of this. She explained that they had a whole communication program planned but (get this) management didn't like the design/logo on the buttons and email communications so they were re-designing it. What?! This is when it feels lame to work for corporate America. When the logo is more important that the message, an internal message mind you, there is a problem. I told my VP about it. She could only roll her eyes and agree that it was ridiculous.

In the end I apologized to our environmental expert for being a pain in the ass. She actually thanked me for taking the time to look into it. She was downright excited. She then took my name and info and asked if I'd be a contact for her. She asked if I'd mind being a mouthpiece to help spread the word. I told her being a mouthpiece was rarely a problem for me, it sort of comes naturally.

Well, at least I found out that I can climb off my high horse now. I've been recycling all the time. Phew, what a relief!

Monday, November 27

Not in Public

Tonight I saw the Dixie Chicks Shut Up and Sing documentary. I've been wanting to see it because I was bewildered by the extreme reaction the group received after the lead singer made a silly, barely negative comment about W. Apparently free speech is ok unless it's done in public. Hmm... who knew?

It's a good film that highlights the talent of these fine musicians but mostly I enjoyed seeing uppity women act up. You go girls!

This hasn't been the easiest film to track down. I've had to wait a while for it to come to my neighborhood ... and I live in LA! Here is a cool site I stumbled upon that features other films that are even less likely to be seen. Some of these look interesting but I've never heard of them. Others I've heard of but never saw. I'm hoping I can at least Netflix some.

Hmm, I wonder what else I'm missing?"

Sunday, November 26

'Cause knowledge is power...

After running some errands I came home to tidy up the house. I was looking for something to listen to while I organized an incredibly messy linen closet. It's not the most fun way to spend a Sunday, but God only knew what was in there so it was time get cleanin'. Besides, we're going to need to know what's in there for Christmas entertaining.

I decided to listen to my School House Rock DVD. While listening and not watching, I quickly realized that everything I needed to know I learned from School House Rock. Seriously, I think every person my age got through their Constitution test by humming the Preamble song. The first time I heard Sacajawea's name was in the Elbow Room song. Of course they gloss over a lot but I got the picture as a kid. And of course, Sufferin' Until Suffrage is still a favorite. I really don't know how I would have made it out of elementary school without the help of School House Rock.

And... SHUT UP! Did you know Blossom Dearie sang Unpack Your Adjectives?! I've always loved that one. I can't believe I never made the connection. Well, see there? I learned something new.

Of course here is the standard favorite. I can understand why... it's still a pretty snappy tune. ("hey that's nice")

Some of the send ups are pretty funny. Check out this one from The Simpsons.

Next up: A Year Without a Santa Claus. I picked it up at Toys R Us while doing more Christmas shopping. I love the Mr. Heatmiser song! (By the way, one of my favorite Christmas songs is now Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's version of this song on their Everything You Want for Christmas CD. Check it out.)

Saturday, November 25

Fancy Bird

As mentioned on prior posts, my dad is a hard core bird watcher (or "birder", as they prefer to be called). Well, last week was an exciting week for So. Cal. birders. A Ross's Gull was spotted at the Salton Sea. This was an extraordinary sighting. So remarkable that dad cut my parents vacation short to get down there to see the gull. It was the first time a Ross's Gull had ever been seen in Califonria.

See, the problem with birding is that you're running around chasing something that doesn't exactly keep a reliable schedule. In this case, the gull had wondered all the way down from the Artic Circle. The poor guy was WAY off course. He was the first Ross's Gull to ever wander into California. He broke the southern- most sighting by hundreds of miles.

I'm happy to report that my dad got down there in time to spend the afternoon observing the gull. Hundreds of fellow birders were rushing to see it, some coming from out of state. The next morning the gull showed up for about 15 minutes in the early morning then flew off and has not been seen since. I feel so bad for those folks who came such long distances and missed it. Then again, that's part of the "thrill" of birding. There are no guarantees.

My dad has always been a birder. It's something I've grown up with but remains difficult to explain to the uninitiated. When asked, I explain that it's like a collection, a collection of sightings. I can't think of many things that would make me leave my vacation at the crack of dawn to high-tail it to the Salton Sea. Certainly not a bird. A dinner with George Clooney might motivate me but short of that I can't imagine anything that would get me moving like that.

I was dragged along on many birding adventures as a child. My brother turned into a pretty good birder while I remain hopelessly bad at it. I can't tell you how many times someone has pointed up and said to me "There! Right there! Can't you see it?" I never could. The one sighting, however, that I vividly remember is that of three endangered California Condors in the wild back in the 70's. We were up on a mountain ridge looking out and watched as a family of Condors flew in circles before us. It was a magnificent sight I'll never forget. I knew then that it was a big deal and to hold on to the memory. Even I could recognize a rare, bad-ass bird when I saw it.

Most folks just shrug when I try explaining the whole birding thing. Now, I point to March of the Penguins to help make my point that, although it's not really my thing, birds are fascinating creatures worth checking out. I won't be rushing down to the Salton Sea any time soon, but I understand the urge to do so.

Friday, November 24

Oh, the humanaity.

I've already broken my vow to avoid chain stores for Christmas shopping. I needed a boom box for my niece and figured I'd try Best Buy and if that was too horrific, then I could hit Target. I thought I could handle it.

Last night I decided I wouldn't set my alarm, I wouldn't be one of those maniacs who shop at midnight or 5:00 am. I showered last night and figured I could just get up when I felt like it, get dressed and go. I woke up and heard that there had been a brawl at my local Best Buy. Nerves were apparently raw after folks spent the night in line for a $200 computer offer. Well, no matter, I was going anyway. I wound up getting to the Best Buy parking lot around 8:00 am. The lot was pretty full so I figured if I could find a parking spot without much effort then I would go in. I aimed for the center of the parking lot and immediately found a spot. I walked in to Best Buy and pretty much walked right out. There was the most unimaginable swarm of people in there. The computer and tv section were especially bad. The first thing I thought was "Oh, the humanity." My second thought was "Damn! Why didn't I keep my camera in my purse so I could post this picture?!"

I walked back to my car and held my breath the whole way to Target. The parking lot wasn't bad at all. No different than any ordinary weekend at Target. I walked in and found it down right tranquil compared to that awful Best Buy scene.

I can't remember the last time I shopped on Black Friday. I'm not sure why I tried today. Guess I needed a reminder why I normally avoid it.

Later, I met Shandon and her crew for lunch and a movie. We saw The Departed. About 10 minutes into the film I thought "Somebody wants to be Scorsese." I was annoyed by a few camera angles but otherwise I really liked the movie. It wasn't until the end credits that I learned it actually was a Scorsese film. Oops!!! It's definitely what I'd call a "Boy Movie" but it's a good story and worth checking out.

I'm now watching a hokey movie on the Hallmark Channel to take the edge off this otherwise darkly themed day. (A fun, darkly themed day!) Sing , Dolly, sing!!

Thursday, November 23


This morning I helped my mom make her Pecan Tassies. I'd forgotten all about them until a few weeks ago when my aunt commented how much she'd always liked them. Mom decided to dust off the recipe card and make them for Thanksgiving.

Mom was having trouble pressing hers into the pan. I had a technique that seemed to be working. I commented that it was my dumb luck that I'm a decent baker. I've always known just when to take the cookies out of the oven and how to correct small problems in baking. Other people are great atheltes, mathmeticians, writers, artists, musicians and so on. I'm a good baker. It figures! The last thing on earth I need is an abundance of baked goods lining the kitchen counter but that's the gift I was given. Ugh!

My brother, on the other hand, is an amazing grill chef. He knows exactly how everyone in the family likes their meat cooked. He's grilling the turkey today. I know it sounds a bit strange. I too was skeptical last year when he tried it but, I gotta tell you, it was amazing. I'm looking forward to another good turkey dinner today. He's not a sweets kind of guy but he'll eat my cookies.

My Dad's favorites are my oatmeal raisin cookies. It's from my moms old recipe. I hadn't made them in years. Probably a decade. I was feeling sorry for Dad. Just because I shouldn't be eating cookies doesn't mean he should do without. Last week I told him I'd make oatmeal cookies for him. I baked a batch yesterday and it's about as excited as I've seen my dad in ages. He was thrilled.

I'm not crazy about the oven I was using but they came out well. I still got it! They were yummy.

I hope you too get to enjoy some yummy home made treats today.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Wednesday, November 22

Here we go again

I'm sure I've mentioned it here before but I've been wanting to become an knitter for a long time now. Unfortunately, I'm terrible at it. It might be that it's fall but I'm feeling the need to try knitting again. All I know is that I've tried many times before but inevitably get frustrated and give up.

I cruise the web for inspiration and fun knitting sites. Problem is, they're usually so intimidating that I'm left feeling hopeless about the whole idea. I think it's the knitting patterns... they freak me out.

Well, here are a few new sites I've found. Mostly I'm looking for a friendly little knit store with a good instructor to teach me a few things. Here's a few sites I've found:

briar rose fibers
This diva knits with Grey's Anatomy
This is a place I've considered taking a knitting lesson from.
I'm also considering Skein.
This place will teach me for free but I have to buy my supplies form them.
Of course, I could always try to teach myself... again. Then again that's never gotten me very far.

One day I'll actually walk into a yarn shop and ask for help. Until then I'll probably just keep lurking online for inspiration.

Tuesday, November 21

Tony! Frankie!

Tonight I asked Mom "Is there anything good on?" meaning is there anything good on tv tonight? She said "That Tony Bennett thing looks pretty good." Tony Bennett thing? What Tony Bennett thing?!

Well, I'm watching that Tony Bennett thing and I love it!! Mr. Bennett has apparently re-recorded some of his biggest hits as duets and they're so much fun.

It even includes my all time favorite Bennett song: I Wanna Be Around.

Mom turned me on to this song some time in my twenties. She enthusiastically explained "Oh, it's the best! It's what you listen to after a bad breakup." She was right. It's the best you'll-be-sorry song EVER. I confess that I prefer the original much better. It has a real bite to it. The newer version has been softened a bit. Too bad. Tony still sounds like he's having a good time though. I suppose that's what really counts.

During tonights show, there was an ad for a new boxed set of Frank Sinatra in Vegas. Mom is not a fan of Sinatra mostly because he was a notorious jerk and she says "he set women back about 40 years and they loved it". I know I'm a feminist and all but I just love Frankie. I know the stories about the mob connections, the roughing up of ex's new boyfriends and so on but, dang it, his music makes me smile. Besides, he earned the fattest file of any entertainer in J Edger Hoover's cabinet, I can't help but admire that. And let's not forget that Ava Gardner broke the guys heart.. that's gotta make a man cranky for a looooong time.

Monday, November 20


Everyone at work is sick. I felt fine until after noon. I then started feeling cold and achy. I'm feeling better now so I'm hoping the air conditioner was just on too high.

To help me feel better I'm doing one of the things I always do when I'm tired and possibly coming down with something: I watch a comfort film. We all have them. There are your all time favorite movies and then there are your comfort films. For instance, I will pretty much drop everything and watch The Godfather I or II any time it's on tv (uncut of course). But when I'm feeling "weak" (as my mom would say) The Godfather is too stressful so I pop in a comfort film. You know you have them too. The qualifying factors are as follows, they tend to be chick-flicks, I can watch them dozens of times and never grow tired of them and they lean towards the cheesy. Most of all it should be noted that they aren't the highest quality films on earth but they sure do make me feel better.

Here are my top five:
  • Bridget Jones' Diary - *sigh* Oh, Colin Firth...
  • Pride & Prejudice (The dreamy Colin Firth version OR the newer Matthew Macfadyen version. *sigh* Oh, Mr. Darcy. Do you see a theme here?)
  • While You Were Sleeping - I know it's sort of dopey but I just love it.
  • Baby Boom - What can I say, I've always liked Diane Keaton.
  • Under The Tuscan Sun - Dreamy Italian guy and an unbelievable setting. Yea!
Of course, there are also Comfort TV shows but that's another list for another day.

Once again, I'd like to tag Shandon to see what her comfort films are.

Sunday, November 19

Falling down

While I've been busy worrying about my spazzy parents, trying to make sure they stay upright and injury free, my friends have started falling apart. The other day I called a friend I've known since the 8th grade. She was running out the door to take her daughter to school and blurted out "Call me later. I'll be in and out all day. I've got an art lesson then I'm getting a CT Scan on my liver. Bye!" WHAT?! I called back a left a message stating "Ok, new rule: no scary sounding procedures without warning me please." She emailed back apologizing and promising not to scare the hell outta me again.

Tonight while at my nephew's baseball game I heard another long time friend (my college roommate) had probably broken her foot. WHAT?! I called her right away and said what I said above "I'm busy keeping my parents upright and I hear you're off braking bones? What's the deal?" She called back and explained that she was at her daughter's team party and was in a "foreign backyard and stepped off a step all wrong." What's going on?

Now, to be fair, I almost broke my ankle the night before my vacation. Our driveway is a mess and I parked in a different spot so my car would be out of the way while I was gone. I walked to the back door, in the dark, and stepped sideways into a pot hole. I really should have broken something but I must have pretty tough bones. I mentioned it to my dad and he decided I must have inherited his tough bones.

God knows, I take diggers all the time that should have landed in the emergency room but I seem to bounce pretty good so that helps. My all-time best digger was in a theater. I was running from the bathroom to catch the second Lord of the Rings movie. The only way to describe these particular stairs is that they are very Tara-esque or "The Scarlett O'Hara Steps". You know the big red stairs that Rhett carries Scarlett up and the stairs she later falls down? Well, that's what we're talking about and I stumbled down them just like Scarlett (but without the great wardrobe). My foot slipped out from under me and I fell head first ALL the way down. I mean I cartwheeled down those steps and landed spread eagle at the bottom. I miraculously got up with no broken bones but my arm was swelling very quickly. I could move it around just fine but I had a bump the size of a stick of butter on my forearm by the time I got back to my seat. I was laughing and showed it to my sister-in-law. She had very concerned look on her face and asked if I wanted to go to the emergency room. I said "No way! I've waited over a year to see this movie!" She insisted I at least go to the lobby for some ice. I did so and asked for a bag or something. The teenagers behind the counter said they didn't have any. I then asked if I could have one of the bags the cups came in. They didn't want to do it until I said "Listen, I just took a dive down your stairs and all I want is a bag. I suggest you just give me the bag, fill it with ice and we'll all be happy." They gave me the bag and I got to see the movie. Here is my fear: somewhere out there, there's a security tape of me tumbling down an enormous flight of stairs. *shudder*

Saturday, November 18

Good day

Today was a very good day. I spent the morning leisurely getting ready for the day, reading the paper and watching Moonstruck for the 100th time.

Later Tony came over and we went to lunch. We then headed over to Stats to get in the holiday spirit. I go to Stats every year to get "in the mood" for x-mas because it never fails me. Tony had never been so I was excited to show him around. First we stopped by the miniature village room. I love it! That dark room lit up with Christmas villages is so great. We walked up and down each aisle and ended up in what I call the "grand finale room": The Christmas tree room. I bought some ornaments for my new cubicle and Tony got some great things for his apartment. We decided his color scheme was very masculine and gorgeous.

Tony had never seen South Pasadena so I drove him down Fair Oaks for a taste of the place. I then took him to one of my favorite stores called The Folk Tree. It's filled with Mexican Folk Art brought up from Mexico. I haven't been in a long time and, while I still love the contents of the place, I was disappointed that the prices have quadruped since my last visit. Bummer! Looks like I'll have to take a trip to Mexico to get some of the stuff for myself.

We went to The Folk Tree Collection (a sister store) up the street. They were having a sort of open house. There were lots of great things to see but I resisted buying that bracelet I loved. I did, however, pick up a few stocking stuffers.

We left and walked out into one of those evenings that reminds my why I love California. The sun was beautifully setting and it was warm and breezy out. We rolled down the windows in the car and opened the moon roof and headed home.

This is one of my favorite ways to spend a Saturday, lunching with a good friend and visiting unique shops. As a result, I've decided I'm banning malls this holiday season. I'm going to see if I can buy all gifts from independent stores. I don't know if I can do it for the kids but I can definitely do it for the grown-ups in my life. No malls for me!!

Here are a few more places I plan to visit this holiday season between shopping stops:

Huntington Library
Nixon Museum
Laemmle Theaters
Norton Simon Museum

Friday, November 17

Control Freak

You know them, you've worked with them, you loathe them: micro-managers.

Today, I heard perhaps the best example of a micro-manager ever. A friend was addressing a room full of people. At one point she pointed to a long table behind her and invited everyone to help themselves. Her manager pulled her aside and said "Next time you point you need to use two fingers." He was completely serious. What the hell?!

I heard from a another friend that he once had a manager who asked him to contact building maintenance immediately because the toilets on another floor of the building had "much better water pressure than our toilets". Umm... ok. She later asked him to contact the buildings cleaning staff because "the paper towels are facing the wrong way. They're too hard to reach now". Seriously? Yup. These people really exist.

We have a micro-manager in our midst at work right now. We work with someone who thinks nothing of spending 3 hours discussing how a document should be laid out. The good news is that I've learned I don't enjoy talking about work, I prefer to actually do work. I can't stand talking and talking about assignments. I like to just dive in and check back with ya later.

I know it always comes down to self loathing and insecurities but why do those freaks have to drag us normals into it? Sheesh!

Thursday, November 16


I'm very sleepy but the words "must... write... blog" are keeping me up, so here goes:

Tonight I saw Flushed Away. I must say it made me laugh out loud several times. The pacing was a bit frenetic for me but it was ok.

As for coming attractions, here are a couple of movies I'm looking forward to seeing:

Shut Up and Sing
For Your Consideration

Movies I'll be taking a pass on:
Death of a President

Movies I missed that are Netflix bound:
Darwin's Nightmare
Deliver Us From Evil

That's all I got folks. See you tomorrow...

Wednesday, November 15


Tonight I discovered my new favorite thing.

My carpool partner had to work late. That was fine, and I had been warned, so I caught up on a bunch of work. Then I remembered something a co-worker told me during lunch. I can watch that Grey's Anatomy episode, I missed last week, online! I decided to watch while my carpool partner wrapped things up.

It was great! Of course, it froze and I'll have to finish tonight. But what great news? I thought I'd never get to see that episode. Hooray for the internet!

Tuesday, November 14


I was flipping through my O Magazine and got to the celebrity Reading Room list. In case you're not familiar with the magazine, allow me to explain: A celebrity lists their top five favorite books then tells a bit about them and why they love them. I'm sure some folks pick books that will be the most complimentary to them but this month's "celeb" described the list making process and how she decided to avoid the first (rather pretentious) list that came to mind. Instead she chose the books that she had read over and over again.

I decided to toss up my own list here. They're not necessarily the smarty pants books I've read but the ones that have influenced me the most. (I tried to read Anna Karenina as Oprah had asked but, dammit, that Tolstoy kept going on and on about farming then just breezed right over the revelation that Anna was knocked up. God knows I tried, but it was just too annoying to finish.)

Here are my top five faves:

The entire Little House on the Prarie collection - As I've mentioned numerous times, I think about pioneer life ALL the time and it's because of these books. Also, my Dad read the entire series to me and that makes them extra special.

All the President's Men - I was forced to read this in college and I'm glad I did. It is single handedly the reason I'm so fascinated with history today. Before reading this book I believed all history was incredibly boring. About half way into the book I realized history can be so much better than fiction. You couldn't make this stuff up.

The Other Boleyn Girl - I've been obsessed with Henry VIII and Elizabeth I for a long time. Although this book is historical fiction it was so much fun that it spurred me into hauling my bones all the way to London just so I could see The Tower of London and visit the site where Anne lost her head. Any book that makes you travel overseas must be good.

Pride & Prejudice - Ok, this is a semi-smarty pants selection but it is sincere. I love this book and it is probably the biggest reason I'm not yet married. I keep looking for Mr. Darcy and until I find him... no dice. I think I'm in for a long-ass wait.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem - Another one I had to read in college but I absolutely love it. I always have a copy on my bookshelf and have pulled it down for a visit more times than I can remember. I genuinely love Joan Didion's voice, for that reason this book is especially inspirational to me.

So there you have it. My faves. Of course there are MANY more but these most likely had the greatest impact on me and I truly enjoyed them.

Now, I'd like to tag a few people to find out what their faves are. Shandon, Trooper and Abnorman... give up the goods. I'd love to hear about your faves/most influential books. I can probably guess a couple but I'd like to know what they are and a little about them.

Monday, November 13


Today was my first day back at work. Right away I was hit with an "emergency". Instead of freaking out, I just started making the necessary calls and doing the investigating that needed to happen. In the end it all turned out fine so I'm glad I didn't waste time stressing out about it. I need to remember that. It never helps to fret.

After work I picked up a few things to make my new cube more homey. I got a rug, a matching pillow for my guest chair, a wooden bowl and a small Buddha statue. I was hoping he would help remind me to slow down and breathe when things get tense. But then I thought: Oh, no. Will someone be offended if I bring a Buddha to work? Does anyone have a Cross at work? I can't think of one but who knows? I just like the looks of him. Hmm, what to do... Well, now that I think of it, once people found out my friend was Catholic they started bringing her Virgin Mary and Nun stuff. Her desk is covered with a boxing nuns, a big plastic Mary, prayer cards and so on. We decided it probably scared her boss a little bit but we thought that was funny.

As for me, I'm sort of eclectic in my spiritual leanings. I like the peace and love-thy-neighbor parts of religion while other aspects make me batty. Also, I find myself drawn to certain icons. For instance I really like Mary. I carry a Catholic holy card with the Hail Mary prayer on it. I also really liked visiting St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York so I keep a St. Patrick's Cathedral key chain with my keys. I have a small polished rose quartz stone that I've held on to during scary medical procedures. I've even loaned it out to friends to help them get through their scary times. Most people don't know about the prayer card, the key chain or the quartz but I'm sure most would think adding Buddha to the mix is bizarre. I guess I just don't care. All of these things help bring a small amount of peace to my days. For that reason alone I plan to keep them around.

So here is my question to you: What brings you peace? Do you have something tangible that helps you get through tough times? Let me know, I'm really interested.

Sunday, November 12


My Dad is the oldest of ten kids. My earliest memories of our holiday celebrations are a blur of faces talking at me. I learned to be an excellent listener as a child. I found that if I could fade into the background, beyond the frenzy, I could listen in on the most fascinating conversations, grown up talk that I shouldn't be hearing. The 70's were a pretty rocky decade for my dad's side of the family so the eavesdropping opportunities were excellent.

Some of the fun memories involve my aunts getting together to make tamales. We didn't do it often but when we did the stories were juicy. I was thirteen years old the last time I went to a family tamale party. Today we started the tradition again. We plan to do it annually from now on. Sadly, my grandfather is a king-sized asshole so we don't really want him around. Because tamale making is "women's work" we knew we wouldn't be seeing him today.
I love my aunt and uncles but we don't see a lot of each other because when we get together grandpa inevitably shows up. I know it's sad and it sounds cruel but, well let's just say he can be abusive. New horrors were revealed today. The older I get the worse the stories get. I think it might be a sort of therapy for them to openly discuss what they went through. Somehow, in spite my grandfather, they turned out to be really good people.

Today was one of the good days. We marveled at my aunts new kitchen and the amazing woodwork my uncle has done for it. We shared some happy stories and made some great tamales. My Aunt J did most of the work by having everything prepared for us. She showed us how to fill and fold a tamale and we were in business. They taste great. We made 13 dozen so everyone got to leave with plenty. My dad however can throw down a dozen a day so we'll see how long they last. He was sitting in the living room waiting for our return. He couldn't wait to dive in.

Aunt J made booklets for us to take home that included the recipes she used for the day. Including some we didn't use. (I finally got the Mexican Wedding Cake recipe I've longed for!) It was such a kind and thoughtful touch. I'm so grateful for my recipes.

I'm hoping it's a tradition we stick with. It's so nice to see these women, these survivors, doing well and happy and laughing. They deserve so much and I'm so happy to see them finally finding joy.

Saturday, November 11

The Force

I was blogging about something earlier but Blogger didn't save it and now I'm bored with that topic. I'll summarize by saying that my nephew had a rough soccer game today. His little friend Dylan lost control of the ball and the opposing team scored a goal following his mistake. Dylan, normally a very sweet kid, was so outraged that he picked up the ball and chucked it at the scorers head. Now, I don't condone violence but God knows I know how Dylan felt. Next time you see a kid misbehaving, just imagine an adult behaving that way at work. Trust me, it can be endlessly entertaining.

And speaking of mindless, childish behavior, I've spent my afternoon "watching" the Star Wars marathon on Cinemax. (I put the word in quotes because I rarely sit and literally watch a movie at home. I'm usually on the computer, flipping through a magazine, folding laundry or whatever needs to be done.) I've never seen the first three episodes because I heard they were crap. Well, after (sort of) watching the first two episodes I've got one word for you: BOR-ING! The only reason I'm tuning in is so I can trash-talk my nephew. We often play the Star Wars Edition of Trivial Pursuit and I'm forever shouting out "Princess Leia!" for every answer. Let me tell you, it's difficult to win when with that strategy. Now, I'll be better informed. I plan to call the current champion to tell him to prepare for defeat. Game on kiddo!

Friday, November 10

End of the road

I'm sitting in the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. When given the choice between going to the Mall of America or sitting around the airport, I chose the airport. I am my father's daughter. Chicago/O'Hare is apparently closed for a couple of hours and I'm feeling bad for the folks on the Chicago flight ahead of me. God only knows when they'll get out of here. As for me, I have a connection in Denver so I'm hoping the Chicago weather won't delay me.

Otherwise, it's been another good day. Stef and I left her house around 9:00 to go to a coffee shop called Nina's Coffee Cafe in St Paul. It sits atop Garrison Keillor's new book store. We thought we'd give it a try. It turned out to be a great little place to grab a quick breakfast and tea. There were lot's of people sitting around reading and working on laptops. We both liked the atmosphere a lot but decided we would be too distracted to read in such a place. I could tap away on my computer but really concentrate on a book? I could never do it.

After breakfast, we headed downstairs to Common Good Books. We browsed a bit and I'm happy to report that the place actually made me feel pretty well read. Thank you Mr. Keillor! I felt as though I'd read a lot of the books on those shelves. Yea! Later we were walking back to the car and found ourselves in the Blair Arcade. What a great place. I'd love to show you some pix but I didn't take any and I can't find anything online. You'll just have to trust me that it's a pretty cool place. It looked to be a well restored building with loads of nooks and crannies. The architecture was impressive. The place is full of alternative medicine, health clinics and so on.

We then headed for downtown Minneapolis. I'd never been and I wanted to check it out. We made our way through the Sky Way (it's like a human Habitrail to keep folks out of the cold). We stopped by the old Marshall Fields. It's, sadly, now a Macy's. It reminds me of Macy's Herald Square but better maintained. I'm sorry I missed seeing Marshall Fields. I did however get the mandatory photo of myself standing next to the Mary Tyler Moore statue, tossing my hat in the air. I swear the main reason I brought a hat on this trip was to toss it in the air next to Mare.

Next we stopped at a great little restaurant called Hell's Kitchen for lunch. It pokes fun at the whole idea of hell. There are Ralph Steadman prints and The Far Side hell-themed cartoons hanging on the walls (God, do I miss The Far Side.) . Stef had been raving about their chicken sandwich and she was right. It was great. We both got the sandwich with fruit but when I heard they served hom-made ketchup < href="">Muddy Paws Cheesecake" and it offers 180 varieties of cheesecake, now that's what I call a claim to fame! I chose the Chocolate Decadence and it was amazing. Probably the best cheesecake I've ever had.

Next we drove around the city a bit. Stef asked "Are you sure you don't want to go to Mall of America?". I guess that's where most people like to go when they hit Minneapolis. I reassured her that I didn't really need to see another Claire's but that I wouldn't driving around it to see how obscenely big it is. We tried to drive around but the place is like a black hole, it keeps sucking you into it's parking structures. After much resistance we got sucked in . I decided to make the best of it it. I thought it would be a good idea to go to the roof to get a picture of it in all it's gluttonous glory. We eventually made it to the roof but I couldn't really get a decent pic for you. I can, however, tell you it's damn cold up there. It was about 32 degrees and very windy. Yikes!

Did I mention the weather around here? Turns out both highway 90 and 14 got about 7 inches of snow after we left. We literally outran the snow. I still can't believe our luck with the weather this week. We left and came back just in time. These parts won't be seeing weather like that until May or June. We were incredibly lucky.

Speaking of "These parts" did I mention that the local news in South Dakota is called "Kota Territory News"? Has anyone told them they are part of the Union? Who's going to break it to them? Seriously, why do they call themselves the Kota Terretory? Does anyone know? When I was in London earlier in the year, I thought it was hilarious that some people called the United States "The Colonies". "Kota Territory" smacks of the same kind of denial. Too funny...

Well, I'm gonna wrap this up now. I'm going to see if my flight is still at this gate...

... later...

Now I'm home in my favorite chair. I'm afraid to look back at what I've written, especially last night. I was deliriously tired when I posted that one. Hope it made sense. I'll have to look back and see what I said. It should be intersteing.

It's good to be home but I'm so glad I made the trip. At one point Stef commented that if a few years ago, someone had told her we'd be driving through South Dakota on vacation together she never would have believed them. But there we were tearing up the highways. This trip taught me a lot. Mostly that I want to see more of the US. In fact, I've decided I need to see every state in the country. It might take ma a while but I want to give it a shot. (Anyone up for a road trip this Spring?)

It was a unique week to be driving through middle America. I can't be certain but I think I got a taste of the America my parents grew up in. One full of decent people who really care about each other. As my family and friends know, I'm no fan of Bush and his administration. I think they have done a disservice to this country by hijacking Jesus and making good Christians believe they only way to prove you're a God fearing patriot is to vote Republican. Well, I think Christ would have a thing or two to say about that. I've always said Jesus seems to me to be an excellent example of a world-class liberal. The people we met along the way seem to get that. If the election results are any indication than it's safe to say that American voters agree. I don't like the idea of any extremists running the show no matter which "side" they're on. I happen to love the whole checks and balances idea. As for Bush, we heard talk today of Impeachment on the radio. Do I think he should be Impeached? I think the Republicans wasted enough tax payer money dragging our last President through the mud. I'm not sure anyone has the stomach or cash to persue an impeachment but I do know the new House and Senate will have a few pointed questions for ol' W. He must be sweating bullets and it's about time.

In the end, I believe most Americans are hard working, honest, funny, people just trying to make the world a better place for their kids. I'm so relieved to know that those same people have stood up and rejected the extremists in our country.

My "Favorite Republican" has been lurking around this blog. To him I say: Don't get too excited. I'm more of a liberal than ever. I continue to have an open mind and try to see as many sides to a story as possible. Sorry to disappoint, but I don't see myself casting a Republican vote for a very long time. In the mean time, I'll enjoy watching the GOP slink away for a while to lick it's wounds and, for once, I'll thank Karl Rove for making it all possible.

Thursday, November 9

New perspective

(I'd post some pix but the connection is weak. I'll trying matching up photos as soon as I can.)

Today we stalked Laura Ingalls Wilder. Stef and I both loved Laura's adventures in her books and the show, so visiting at least one of her home towns was a must.

We headed out for breakfast and were again greeted with a "Hunters Welcome" sign. Seriously, those signs were everywhere. I must say that before this trip I had no real understanding of hunting. Now, I think I at least have a grasp. I understand it's a male bonding thing, something boys do with their dads and that it helps control certain animal populations... otherwise I didn't really get it. At one point Stef went into a gas station to get some water. When she came back she tossed a booklet in my lap. It was a hunter's guide book. It outlined the rules, required licenses and so on that were required for hunting. It reminded me of the National Baseball Leagues Official rule book. Flipping through the booklet, it became abundantly clear that hunters are in no way interested in causing suffering. Around here, hunting is something you are raised with and a rite of passage. The state outlines very specific rules that must be adhered to. The restrictions are much tighter than I ever imagined. For instance, you may not shoot a mourning dove unless it's in flight. You may not hunt until 30 minutes prior to sun up. If you're using a bow they describe the pounds of pressure necessary. Who knew?! It's all about preventing suffering while controlling the population. The wildlife population is more than the state could ever handle so why not ask the public to help out? I'm sure if I had stopped any hunter and asked about "the rules" he would have known them inside and out. I'm also sure that the whole thing is very much on a honor system. If a hunter broke any laws I feel certain a sort of black ball effect would follow. I am surprised as anyone about these revelations but I guess the most attractive part of traveling is getting a fresh perspective.

I also have a whole new appreciation for farmers. On the way to South Dakota we took the 90. On the way back to Minnesota we drove along the 14 (aka Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway). The 14 is much prettier and somehow more friendly than the 90. There are farms lining the entire route. I spent much of my day trying to steal a picture of the countless barns and farmhouse disintegrating into the ground. We noticed that almost every farmhouse had an ancient, decaying barn and/or farmhouse next to it. I was fascinated by each one. I thought they were beautiful and each must have such a story to tell. I kept wondering who had built those old places I had to assume the descendants of the original builder, probably a grandson or great granddaughter, now lived next those old structures and just didn't have the heart to tear them down. I wondered where the rest of the family went. What do they do now? Sometimes we'd pass an entire complex of collapsing barns and homes and I'd wonder where that family went. Obviously, a whole life had thrived there at one time. What happened? I wanted to stop and take better pictures but it seemed too intrusive to do so because a family was usually living right there. I suppose there is something very comforting about living next to the house your grandfather built with his own hands. I wouldn't be able to tear it down either.

This trip has helped me realize that most Americans are hard working people trying to preserve their way of life. There is so much opportunity to do just that. After rolling along the 14 for several hours I became obsessed with the idea of ethanol fuel. How great would it be to have American farmers making as much money as oil men? I saw my first ethanol sticker on a gas pump today but it wasn't clear if it actually pumped the stuff. All I know is that we seem to have a heck of a lot fertile land and hard working farming families, why not depend on them for our fuel? I'm gonna look into it. If India can convert why can't we? Oh yeah, the oil companies. Well, if this weeks election is any indication, those guys should be shaking on their boots.

One of my favorite customs in middle America is waving to the car/truck as they pass you while heading in the opposite direction. Mostly it was older people waving to us. Sometimes it wasn't even a wave, a trucker would raise an index finger in our direction and that was it. For the record South Dakotans wave more frequently than Minnesotans. Eventually we discovered that if it's wearing overalls it will wave.

As this blog indicates, you tend to do a lot of thinking as you roll along the US highways.

As originally mentioned, our first destination was the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead in De Smet, SD. According to Shandon, it was where Laura and family lived during her teen years. (Remember Laura trying to curl her hair with a warmed pencil? Is was a pencil, or something, right?) Now, here's where touring in the off season is a bummer... the homestead was "closed for the season". Oh well, the gift store had a sign in the window inviting us to take a map and look around. We did. A small buildings had latches to keep the wind from blowing them open, but nothing was locked (except the store). We wandered around and looked inside the tiny house and the larger barn. We pumped water from the still operating hand pump (cool!). and took a peek in the outhouse. While I was disappointed the store wasn't open, it was really fun to look around on our own. It was about 40 degrees outside and the wind had really kicked up. We ducked into the small barn and immediately felt warmer. The floor was covered in hay. That stuff really is great insulation. It was still cold but SO much better in there, even with the door wide open. The house was tiny but the barn was big with a big upstairs museum-like room. I swung open the big door up there and could understand how that breeze would be great in the summer. In the middle of November it's not so fun. We made our way back to the car for a diet coke somewhere.

Next, we headed towards Walnut Grove. The house in Plum Creek is no longer there but the town has a cute gift store. We went in and I actually got a little misty when it occurred to me that my dad read every word of those books to me. How great is that? I must take a moment to point out that Laura's story had a profound impact on my life. I literally think of her and pioneers all of the time. I'm sure I've mentioned it before but it's true. My mom and I often comment that we would have made terrible pioneers.

We picked up a few souvenirs then headed to a smart business owner 's place called "Oleson's Mercantile". It's not the real place but ya gotta admit that name is great. I bet everyone else in town slapped their heads and thought "Why didn't I think of that?".

We drove around Walnut Grove a bit and really liked it. If you're interested, you can rent a loft there fore $250 per month. It's a nice place... you might want to consider it.

Somewhere along the line we decided it would be a good idea to loop back to Cracker Barrel for dinner. We were singing "Cracker Barrel here we come" to the tune "California Here I Come". It was a heck of a drive but worth it. God knows when I'll be able to eat there again so I went for it. Shandon and Norman, have no fear, I took a picture of dinner for you.

Wednesday, November 8

Covering a lot of land

So, remember those scary girls waving those terrible signs promoting the Anti-choice law in South Dakota? Well, they lost and we're back to that scary town to spend the night. Stef's been tormenting me all day about how this was her plan all along. The hotels in Sioux Falls were sold out and this was the next best thing. I will say that place looks much better under the dark of night and on the other side of the freeway.

As for our day it was another good one. We packed a lot in. That being said, I'll let the pix do most of the talking since it's getting late.

The wind was really blowing and whipping dead leaves up all around us. We braved the wind and visited the Deadwood Visitor's Center then walked to the #10 Saloon where Wild Bill Hickock was shot. The interior of the place looks old but they were refurbishing most of it so it was hard to get a close look at the pictures and memorabilia on the walls. We did our best to step around the workers, ladders, and newly finished floors. After a quick look around we stepped back out on to Main Street. For those interested in Deadwood history, I can tell you Hickock's killer didn't get far. He was caught across the street about three doors down.

Next we hit the Adams Museum. It has everything from the door from the last brothel in Deadwood to a small trunk brought over on the Mayflower. They had a buggy, as in "horse and buggy" and I had no idea they were so small. There were a couple of guns on display said to have belonged to Bill Hickock and Charlie Utter. If you're a fan of the show you wander around the museum and recognize a lot of names. It was fun.

We then drove up to Moriah Cemetery to visit Calamity Jane and Bill Hickock grave sites. The two rest right next to each other. It's a lovely place but we agreed that it seemed strange that folks had left coins and smokes on Hickok's grave. He does have a nice view of Deadwood though.

We then hit the road and headed towards President's Park. I'm sorry, but I love a strange roadside attraction and this one qualifies. It has 25 foot busts of every President of the United States. We walked in to pay and were greeted by an adorable 3 month old puppy named Buster. He was sliding and runnning all over the hard wood floors. We paid a small fee and again braced ourselves against the wind and started out up and around the trail to see the Presidents. (Shandon, you can tell Sean I go the pic with Harrison, as promised.) My favorite spot was the "Watergate Memorial Picnic Area". It made me laugh almost as much as the childish pic I took of me holding up a certain finger in the same frame with W. Sure it was immature but it felt good. I'd post it here but my mom is reading this and well, it just wouldn't do.

We had to get across as much of South Dakota as possible so we headed out again and stopped at Wall for some lunch. We saw even more of Wall Drug than we saw the other day. There was a whole section we missed. I'm glad we got the chance to catch it again especially for a shot of this sign:

We then headed down the 240 to see some of the Badlands. They are incredible. It was getting late, around 4:00 pm, so the light was especially dramatic and harsh on those mountains. It was beautiful but spooky. Again, being the off season, Stef and I find ourselves all alone in very barren places on this trip. I guess I just keep thinking, as usual, of the pioneers and how much they must have suffered while going west. What a nightmare. I can't even imagine how bad it must have been for the poor souls who wandered into the badlands. It's got that name for a reason. We drove about 15 minutes in and realized it was going to be an extremely long and winding road so we decided to back track and get as far as possible along the 90.

It gets so dark out here. Also, the openness is oddly unnerving to me. I'm used to mountains even if they are far off in the distance. I've never been in such a wide open place. I don't know what I think is going to happen but I know that I've never seen darker nights. It's so dark it almost looks as though there is a moonless ocean out there on the horizon or that we're driving through a pitch black tunnel. Finally, I looked up to see the most amazing expanse of stars. Eventally the moon showed up behind the clouds an washed away most of the stars but that sky was just as beautiful.

Of course we've been running around checking out the sites but we knew all about the recent political events thanks to Mom and Tony. Yes, most people I know are thrilled. One family overheard Stef and I talking about Rumsfeld resigning and exclaimed "It's about time!" In an attempt to catch up on the days events we found a PRI station and listened intently to the days events and relished every minute of it.

After a few hours of driving, we stopped at Al's Oasis for dinner and a gas stop. First we looked around the town of Chamberlain but there wasn't much in the way of restaurants so we drove back a few miles to hit Al's. Dinner was really good but Al's hosts a strange mix of people. It turns out it's hunting season and as the "Hunter's Welcome" sign indicated, the place was full of hunters. Ladies, here's some good news: there is no one in the ladies room at Al's during hunting season. (Once again, how much am I loving this off season thing?!) After dinner, and looking around the fairly large gift shop, we got some gas and made our way to our old stomping gorund, Mitchell, for a good nights sleep.

It's really late and I've got to get some sleep now. Good night! P.S. I've just looked at the blog and it looks like the photos are not lining up with my comments. I'd try to fix it but I'm beat. Sorry!

Tuesday, November 7

Cultural whiplash

This morning we set out for Wall Drug for breakfast and a look around. A fellow blogger commented that Wall, SD is like finding an oasis in the middle of the desert. He was so right. It's a crazy tourist trap but a good time never the less. The breakfast was good and cheap (as has pretty much every other meal we've had thus far). They have a "backyard" that features fiber glass statues to take pictures on. My favorite is the Jackalope:

We saw the much hyped Wall Drug Dinosaur, which roars every 2 minutes. It scared the bejesus outta Stef. She was standing right under it for a photo opp and the thing went wild with a bone chilling roar accompanied with smoke, red lights and a "danger" alarm. It may have been one of the funniest moments on the trip. Once we had composed ourselves, we bought some souveniers and made our way towards Mt. Rushmore.

I had been told, in no uncertain terms, that I would be disappointed with Mt. Rushmore. I was not. I found it fascinating and impressive.

I should mention that I suggest you visit Mt Rushmore in the off season. The down side is that ALL of the nearby stores and restaurants will be closed but the pay off is that you virtually have the place to yourself. Not bad for such a famous spot. We saw the short introduction film and learned how the project got started and grew, we took some great pix and walked around a bit, we bought more souveniers then decided where to go next. Stef is not a fan of driving after dark around here because there is a good chance of hitting deer on the road. It's dangerous and sad so we've been trying to wrap up our driving by sundown. We had a choice of driving through Custer State Park where we could see some buffalo roam (cool!) or check out the Crazy Horse Memorial. I said "Well, it just seems rude to not visit Crazy Horse's Monument." figuring I could visit the buffalo some other time.

Crazy Horse Memorial is 17 scenic miles from Mt Rushmore. We pulled up to the guard shack and were told it would be $10 per person for entry. Stef said "$10?! I don't think I want to do this." I said "Oh come on, it's goes towards a good cause." We went back and forth but wound up going in. Am I glad we did!! When you pull up it looks as thought there is just the monument and not much else. Then you drive down the hill a bit and see there is a shiny new visitors center.

We parked and went into the impressive center. It is a big, beautiful, wood lined structure loaded with Native American artifacts. There is a great gift shop, restaurant, sculptors studio, native artists pavilion and much more. We looked around at the artifacts then saw the introduction film. What a great story! A native elder approached an award winning sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski, and asked him to design and sculpt a monument so "the white man will know the red man has heroes too." Ziolkowski took on the task and spent the rest of his life carving Crazy Horse out of the Black Hills. He died in 1982 but his wife and 7 of his 10 children plan to finish what their husband and father started. Nobody knows how long it will take to complete but some say it could be at least another 100 years.

We learned the site and memorial are funded entirely by private donations. Our $10 entry fee began to look pretty modest. Ziolkowski's wife, Ruth, lives on the impressive site in the original log cabin her husband built and added on to through their life. She lives there year 'round and keeps the whole project going. Several times the federal government has offered up to $10 million in funding but she has refused it every time. She and her family know that Mt. Rushmore was never finished and do not believe the government would finish the Crazy Horse project. I can't say that I blame her. I happen to LOVE the idea that the Crazy Horse monument is funded entirely from public interest. Ruth is doing a much better job than the government ever could. Eventually the site will be home to a university, a Native American museum, a medical training center and an Avenue of the Chiefs.

Again, we had the place to ourselves due to the off season timing. Check out the empty restaurant and a small section of the center:

No crowds, hoorah!!!

I've always been fascinated with Native American culture. My dad had the same interest and it obviously rubbed off on me. The center does such a great job of sharing and appreciating Native American culture. I spoke with a women at the jewelery counter and asked lots of questions. Well, actually I leaned over the counter and said "This place kicks the shit out of Mt. Rushmore. I don't mean to be rude but..." She laughed and said "Yeah, we hear that a lot." I asked why they didn't advertise more and she explained that Ruth says "If people are going to come, they're going to come." She knows they could get the job done faster with federal assistance but she wants to do it right. I then asked if money made from the sales in the gift shop went towards the project. She said 93% went to the whole project. Well, that's all I needed to hear to spend money! I got some great earrings, a CD of amazing native flute music and a book titled Custer's Fall - The Native American Side of the Story. Woo hoo!! She also explained that Ruth works along side a council who make sure everything associated with the complex is in line with Native American beliefs. For instance, they no longer sell Crazy Horse shot glasses due to the issue many Native Americans have with alcohol. They also stopped selling pipes because they learned that one tribe didn't believe in selling pipes. The cultural sensitivity brings such a sense of dignity to the place. There is certainly some tacky touristy stuff to be found but the gift shop offers a great selection of Native American art.

Here's what the sculpture will look like when it's complete (that's the real sculpture way off in the background):

Next, Stef and I had lunch in the restaurant where I tried a buffalo burger. It was great! It tastes just like beef but much more lean. (I know, I know! I was all excited about seeing buffalo roam then I end up eating one but "when in Rome...")

I could go on and on about the Crazy Horse Memorial but the bottom line is that I highly recommend spending a day there looking around then going home to brush up on Native American history.

We then made our way to Deadwood. You can't imagine how beautiful that drive is. I can tell you that I've apparently seen one too many movies about "Cowboys and Indians" because every time I looked through those trees I could vividly imagine a native perched on a horse silently watching us go by. I can see why the pioneers were so freaked out by the site of them. Those head dresses and war chants were meant to intimidate. I can't say that I blame the natives for what they felt they had to do to protect their way of life... but I digress.

We made it to Deadwood and walked the length of main street but found most of the stores were closed. There is a LOT of gambling. I expected that but... well, whatever. Main street is nice but sort of creepy this time of year and especially after dark. We were pretty much all alone on the streets and given the history of the place, well it can give a girl the chills. We had a good dinner down the street then came back to figure out what to do tomorrow.

We plan to search for Deadwood's historic sites. It should be another good day. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, November 6

Wide open spaces

The good news is that I'm on vacation. The bad news is that my plan to blog every day this month was foiled by lack of internet access. I arrived at Stef's house last night and tried every available network, I couldn't log on to save my life. Bummer! To make matters worse I turned on my computer to find all preferences had been erased along with all contents of my iTunes Library, my photo album and bookmarks. What the hell?! I leave the state and my laptop rebels? I'm so sad.

I got over it by waking early this morning and setting out to drive across Minnesota and South Dakota with Stefanie. Stef is my travel buddy. She is one of a few friends willing and able to go on and off the beaten path with me. She's the one I trusted to go to London and Dublin with last year. We tend to get excited about the same strange things on a trip. For instance, while initially planning this trip we decided Mt. Rushmore would be a fun destination. Neither one of us had been and that was reason enough to go. Once the planning process began we found the idea of visiting Wall Drug to be almost as compelling as London.

All friends warned that we could easily die on this trip. It being November in Minnesota & South Dakota, I know it can be dangerous but hearing it over and over again was a real buzz kill. Luckily weather has been great so far.

This morning we departed at 8:00 am and planned to drive out of the Twin Cities and then find a place to eat. We were planning to avoid chain restaurants but about an hour into the trip, and searching for a place to eat we saw it. In unison Stef and I shouted excitedly "Cracker Barrel?! YEA!!!".
I've heard of Cracker Barrel but I've never been. I told a few friends at work I was planning to check one out. I'm happy to report I throughly enjoyed my breakfast there. The hash brown casserole is yummy. After breakfast Stef and I wandered around and picked up a few things. All in all it was a great kick-off to our Great Plains crossing.

Once on the road again I faithfully followed my AAA Trip Tik and planned our next stop. We eventually hit the border and were greeted with this sign:

Bummer! But I can't say that I blame them. I mean what are the odds? Stef and I picked the best day of the year to make this trip. At Luchtime it was about 72 degrees. I hear that's unusual.

Once in South Dakota we started spotting the famed Wall Drug billboards. We also notice an unparalled obsession with abortion. I've never seen so many anti-choice signs in my life. I mean seriously, it's an abnormal obsession out here. Along with this disturbing trend we saw some intriguing signs for a place called the Corn Palace. Well, sign me up! Many, many miles later we pulled off the 90 and made our way towards the famed palace. The first corner off the highway we spotted these young ladies:

Frankly, we were completely freaked out. While I'm sure Mitchell is a lovely town, that was not exactly the greeting we were looking for. We were shocked. We made our way to the palace despite this grisly send off. I didn't even step out of the car. I shot this picture
and we took off. We decided Mitchell looked exactly like the small town in Halloween. Frea-ky.

Once out of Mitchell, we put some Springsteen on and I have to say I completely understand that whole Nebraska album now. We sang along to Born to Run (we suddenly knew the feeling exactly), Thunder Road (I get it) and The River (SO completely makes sense now). Then things got really strange. We drove for hundreds of miles and didn't see any sign of civilation. There was almost a full moon but I've never seen a darker place than South Dakota at night. There was some cloud cover blocking the moon and it was spooky. It's all so wide open and I somehow felt so vulnerable. I guess I learned I really like the cover of trees. I don't know how on earth native Americas much less pioneers survived out here. There is nothing to protect one from the elements or each other. I couldn't get over it.

We eventually made it to today's final destination: Wall, South Dakota. I must say I'm very happy with the hotel we picked. We registered with a very nice motherly woman who recommended a good restaurant. When we returned after dinner, she was seated on the lobby couch next to an elderly woman. They were watching the Country Music Awards and knitting. It was so comforting.

That's pretty much the news for that day. Next stop... Mt Rushmore!

Wish me luck on getting WiFi access tomorrow.

... and don't forget to VOTE!!!

P.S. To those wondering, I voted "Absentee". You didn't think I'd skip an opportunity to voice my opinions did you?