Widgets A Round-the-World Travel Blog: Devil May Care: July 2010 Archives

July 2010 Archives

My explanation for the lack of updates: all driving/downtime is currently given over to either a) trying to deal with matters related to the renting of our New York apartment or b) studying for scuba certification, which we should complete this week in Nacogdoches, Texas.

With regard to the first, we can recommend a very good and helpful New York real estate agent. With regard to the second, it's not the bar exam, but it's still a lot of study.

But some times you have to put all that aside. Like tonight, when we bring you a blog post from the inside of a small dome tent, open to the central Texas stars (but hopefully not the central Texas bugs). It seems AT&T gets just enough coverage to blog from out here.

By the way: if you are driving in Texas, try not to hit a skunk. It causes problems.

If you intend to drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, I highly recommend two strategies:

a) First, stop either in Monterey, north of Big Sur, or Cambria. Anything between those two points seems to be "luxury" hotels in the $150 and up (sometimes way up) range. While there are quite a few camp sites, they fill up quickly.

b) Second, gas up in Monterey. Gas stations are few in the resort districts, and I feel we serve our readers well by preventing them from paying $4.50 per gallon.

We're driving and doing things faster than we can write, but there will be updates soon on Salt Lake City, Reno, San Francisco and the Pacific Coast Highway. Tomorrow, LA!


The Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Views Along 80 West

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Reclining in the passenger seat, post-pedicure, watching Big Sky country go by.

While most rest stops on the road between Chicago and Salt Lake City are pretty dull (even the Little America one, which tries so hard), there's one that's worth visiting. It doesn't sell anything cool -- doesn't sell anything at all, in fact -- nor are the bathrooms worth writing home about. I only noticed that there was anything out of the ordinary about it when I saw a dozen children in a plain dirt field, alternately standing very still and scampering excitedly.

After celebrating Canada Day in Ottawa with thousands of Canadian strangers plus Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, we spent Independence Day more restfully with Tony's parents, cousins and family friends in Michigan. We got a break from the fast food diet we'd been developing on the road, with home cooked meals and more tasty baked goods (chocolate chip cookies, cherry pie, pineapple upside-down cake) than was at all good for me.

We then went an unintentional step further into gluttony by stopping at a Texas Corral restaurant on our way to Chicago. Tony ordered an entree for us to split, added a shrimp side, and figured he also should get an appetizer. I was skeptical, but not because of the cost. The whole meal, beverages and tax included, cost $20. 

Rather, I had looked around and remembered: we were back in non-coastal, non-urban America ("real America," as Sarah Palin would say). A restaurant order that would be just enough to stop hunger in New York or Canada was going to be way too much food for two people in Franklin, Illinois. And I was right. Our waitress kept bringing us warm rolls with containers of cinnamon butter; the appetizer filled a platter; the entree, with its attendant salad and sides, defeated us entirely. I thought it was kind of a Fifth of July moment: it's a great country that can feed its people so well for such a relatively small amount of money.

Much to write, and much to catch up on, but FYI if you are ever in San Francisco: they give you a ticket if you turn your wheels the wrong way when parking on a hill. It seems that the correct way is:

When facing downhill, turn your wheels to the right. When facing uphill on a street with a curb, turn your wheels to the left. When facing uphill on a street with no curb, turn your wheels to the right.

Needless to say, I got that mixed up.

I've been meaning to write this up for a while, as it's a story from before we set off on the road. Pallavi took the lead in finding us inexpensive storage outside Manhattan, and had a number of good locations picked out. At the same time, I was selling some of our possessions on Craigslist and came across an ad for $99 climate-controlled storage. The ads are still up there, for this firm, and if you're thinking of storage in the New York area, I can't recommend against this company highly enough. [1]

After a considerable time on the phone with LAN, we have now purchased our round-the-world tickets.

Something I learned: you do not need to take advantage of the "Canadian exception" in order to arbitrage the difference in round-the-world ticket prices. So long as you are willing to purchase an e-ticket (and none of the airlines that I spoke to were particularly enthusiastic or willing to issue paper tickets with open dates), it seems that an e-ticket purchased online through the OneWorld Alliance website will be priced at the cost of the country of origin. [1] Thus, it is often possible to save money by "starting" the trip in another country (in our case, Ecuador), and then booking a separate flight from the U.S. This is particularly true in our case, as the OneWorld Explorer is priced by the number of continents visited. Technically, we are not visiting North America on the "round the world" section of the trip.

If you are looking for more information on round-the-world travel, you could do a lot worse than signing up for the FlyerTalk bulletin boards, where there are a lot of very helpful and experienced travelers willing to answer questions from newbies.

[1] This may still be due to the "Canadian exception," as the booking agent listed on the online reservation is located in Vancouver.

After Ottawa, Toronto; and after Toronto, we crossed the border into Michigan. If you are ever considering a similar trip, I advise that you add an hour for the border crossing and getting through customs. Once past these hurdles, however, we had somewhat smooth sailing. Somewhat smooth because the roads around Detroit have deteriorated a great deal since I last drove them (before law school). Our first stop was in Novi, where we visited some of Pallavi's relatives, and then we continued to Big Rapids, where we stayed in one of my childhood homes.

The Fourth of July weekend was a story of relaxation, a chance to meet with family and friends. We grilled steak using an espresso rub, a spicy/coffee mixture that I highly recommend. After a week on the road, spending some time with a fully-stocked kitchen (and bar!) and good company made for a nice change. I got to take my old car for a spin, go sailing, and spend time with family that I will not be seeing for a year.

Typing that feels odd. We've been on the road for half a month now, but sometimes the trip does not feel entirely real. I still wake up occasionally expecting to hop out of bed, pull on a suit, and head for an office. It wasn't until we pulled out of the forest where my parents live that I started to think that I will not be "home" for a year. Perhaps more on that later.

Found on West Grand Avenue in Chicago, as storefront that takes customers "by appointment only."


This sign adorns the door to an otherwise unprepossessing two story brick building. I have no idea what the store sells, finds, or barters, but on a street bedecked with glass-front boutiques and Starbucks sidewalk cafes, the locked doors and drawn curtains evoke unlikely mystery. I don't want to know, because the reality will almost certainly not live up to the promise of an advertisement suitable for a story by Bradbury or Gaiman.

Nonetheless, it's the odd kind of thing I hope to see more of on my travels, and reminds me why some of my friends who are writers found their own journeys to be fodder for good fiction.

Time for a catch up entry. I would despair for our ability to update the blog while we are traveling, if it were not for the fact that our schedule gives the entire US and Canada as much time as Ecuador and Peru. I figure that once we're off the continent, we'll have a little more time for reflection (and a lot more to reflect about). In the meantime, a bit of what we've been up to since Prince Edward Island:

With only a couple of exceptions, people's reactions to hearing that Prince Edward Island was on our itinerary broke down neatly by gender lines.

Men: Oh. Why? What's there? Where is that, anyway?
Women: Like in Anne of Green Gables? You're so lucky!

The Canadian trip has been somewhat hurried, as we've had to cover a great deal of ground since Prince Edward Island. We'll have further updates on Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Ottawa shortly.

Things We've Seen

Things We Like