Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Southeast Road Trip Day 10

We booked a room in Bowling Green, had breakfast and headed to Tennessee on I-75 until we got to Chattanooga and got on I-24 to Lookout Mountain. Normally you can see quite far from the top, but today it was very foggy, it reminded me of the time I drove through Shenandoah. We drove up the mountain and back down getting lots of pretty pictures on the way. After crossing over Nickajack Lake, we took the exit for Lynchburg to go to the Jack Daniel's Distillery. You start by getting a tour time (it's free) and wandering around a museum until your tour starts. The tour starts with a film and a walk up to the area where they make charcoal. Then you see the cave where the water comes in to the grounds and walk through his house. Our guide explained that the trees had a black covering on their bark due to the amount of alcohol that evaporated out of the barrels, called the "angel's share". We saw the stills and then went into the bottling area where they were packaging the single-barrel stuff. Lastly we went through the very fumy barrel house and into a bar where they served lemonade. The county they are in is dry, but they have special permission to sell bottles in their store.
Next it was on to Nashville to see the Parthenon. It's a full scale replica of the one in Athens that was originally built in 1897 for the World's Fair, and rebuilt in the 1920's. As we walked around it, we came across a row of yoga mats. It looked like some kind of weird art installation until the people using the mats to work out came around the corner after taking a lap around the building.
We got to our hotel in Bowling Green and watched a bit of TV. There were some kind of court or city council meetings on the local channel and they were kind of funny. One guy was fighting a $15 parking ticket, and when he was beign sworn in, the judge says "do y'all swear to tell the truth?" We realized that aside from a few tour guides, most of the people in Georgia didn't have much of an accent. But now in Tennesse and Kentucky, almost everyone had a drawl. Mike said our Jack Daniel's guide would have been subtitled if she had been on TV.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Southeast Road Trip Day 9

Since Mike didn't get much sleep, we cancelled the hotel in Nashville and stayed in Atlanta another night. While he rested, I took the truck to the Atlanta Zoo to see some more Giant Pandas. On the way to see them, there were Flamingos, Elephants, a pair of Southern Ground Hornbills, Lions, Meerkats, a Rhinoceros, Giraffes, Zebra, Ostriches and a Waterbuck. A guy by the meerkats told his daughter that they were "meekrats" and a woman told her grandson that the rhinoceros was a hippo! The guy could have been kidding, but the woman was serious. Even though you couldn't see the rhino's head because it was laying behind a log, there was still at least two signs on the exhibit. The Waterbuck was easy to spot when I first walked up, but I sat down to check the map and he hid behind a tree for the rest of the time.

Next there was a Bongo and two Kori Bustards, then the Gorilla enclosure and then The Living Treehouse housing lots of birds. Adjacent to the treehouse are some Black-and-white-ruffed Lemurs who were all resting, unlike the Ring-tailed ones we'd seen in DC. More primates were next door, in an enclosure shared by Drills, Mona Monkeys and Wolf's Guenons. The Mona Monkeys were running around chasing each other and I noticed that one was missing a back leg, but was able to keep up with the others just fine. I tried to get a good view of the Asian Small-clawed Otters, but they were all huddled up against a door. The Orangutans were not as shy, there was an adult male and a baby climbing on the structure in their exhibit and another male relaxing in full view of all us gawkers. The last two animals I saw before the Giant Pandas were a Red Panda, who was sleeping in his box that resembled a bird feeder, and the Komodo Dragon who was perfectly positioned in a window so people could place their loved ones in front and snap pictures.

Time for Giant Pandas! First up outside was Yang Yang, the male who walked around for a bit and then sat down to inhale bamboo. Also outside was his daughter, two and a half year old Mei Lan, who alternated between laying on her stomach and laying on her back lazily chomping bamboo. Then inside Yang Yang's son, seven month old Xi Lan, was climbing on a branch, entertaining all the kids and adults squeezed under the canopy to watch him. His mother Lun Lun kept an eye on him while scarfing bamboo. Back outside, Yang Yang paced around some more and then decided to cool off in the water.

I stopped for a snack and then went over to see some big cats. The Sumatran Tigers were easy to photograph, but Moby the Clouded Leopard was very elusive. The next area had more birds, including a pair of Milky Eagle Owls, a King Vulture and a Cassowary. All of the Kangaroos were resting, but they kept a close eye on any nearby humans. Second to last was the Petting Zoo with Kunekune pigs, three kinds of goats and sheep, and last was the Giant Tortoises.

I headed back to the hotel to check on Mike and he was tired but the pain had subsided, so I drug him out to dinner at Carrabba's.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Southeast Road Trip Day 8

We had the good breakfast again, booked a night at the Wingate in Atlanta and checked out. Instead of heading straight for Atlanta, we doubled back into South Carolina and went out to Hilton Head Island. I was picturing a small town with a bunch of houses, hotels and little shops, but there are 33,000 people in Hilton Head, so it's bigger than I expected. I used Google Maps to find a public beach, so we ended up on Burke's Beach. It was too cold for swimming, but we waded out into the waves. It was the first time either of us had been in the Atlantic. There were lots of small holes in the sand, and when a wave would wash water over them, the animal below would siphon sea water and sand out of the hole. We tried to dig down and see what they were, but we never found anything. There were gulls and pelicans flying out over the water, and we started digging some small holes in the sand. When we walked away from the area we'd dug up, some gulls came down to investigate. As we were heading back towards our shoes, we saw what looked like a footprint, but it had an odd pattern to it, like an insole had been left behind. I flipped the "insole" over only to discover it was a sand dollar! We didn't want it to dry up on the beach, like another we'd seen, so Mike brought it back into the ocean. As I was trying to get my shoes back on, I fell into some plants, and when I got back up there were cockleburrs on my jeans. I was not careful enough getting them off and I got several slivery things stuck in my hand. We stopped at a Wal-Mart on the way back to the mainland (cheap souvenirs!) and then took 95, 16 and 75 up to Atlanta. By the time we reached the hotel, Mike was feeling sick. He thought he was getting a bad cold, so I grabbed us dinner from KFC and got him some medication at Walgreens. It turned out he had a kidney stone, so he didn't get much sleep that night.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Southeast Road Trip Day 7

Wingate hotels have a great breakfast in their lobby, the regular continental stuff plus some kind of sausage or bacon, a waffle maker and cappucino. We took our time eating and getting ready, so we didn't leave the hotel until noon. Savannah has plenty of traffic, so we parked in a ramp a few blocks from the river and walked past another Custom House, the golden-domed City Hall and then down to the riverfront. We got tickets for Old Savannah tours and then ambled down River Street to the boarding area. From River Street, you can see Savannah's cable-stayed bridge, the Talmadge Memorial Bridge which looks just like the Ravenel bridge in Charleston. The trolley took us around to fourteen stops in the city, including some of the squares, the main campus of Savannah College of Art and Design, a house built out of marble dust bricks, the oldest tree in Savannah, City Market, the Historical Society, the First African Baptist Church, Colonial Park cemetery and the Pirate's House, which is now a restaurant. Our guide explained that the blue color is supposed to keep evil spirits away, and that Robert Louis Stevenson set some of the action in Treasure Island at the Pirate's House.
Once the tour was over, I stopped to get some boiled peanuts and then we stopped for ice cream. The peanuts smelled like overcooked peas, but they tasted good. We walked up to Johnson Square and then got back in the truck to drive down River Street, through the city and around some more squares. Heading back to the hotel, we went over the Talmadge bridge and then had dinner at the Longhorn Steakhouse. Last night's domino game continued and Mike won again.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Southeast Road Trip Day 6

Breakfast was the only thing we really did in North Carolina, since there was just 20 miles left before we got to South Carolina. We perused the atlas and our guidebooks for a good place to see the ocean and we settled on Charleston, specifically Fort Sumter. So we headed southeast off of 95 and took 26 into Charleston. We parked at Liberty Park and went into the Fort Sumter Visitor's Center, a building on the mainland housing artifacts from Civil War Era South Carolina. There we got our tickets for the ferry that brings you out to Fort Sumter, since it's on an island that was constructed over a sand bar at the entrance to Charleston Harbor. As we waited to board the ferry, we saw several boats traveling through the harbor and some that were docked, including a cruise ship and one that looked like a pirate ship to my landlubber eyes. Off to the left there was the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge over the Cooper River, the longest cable-stayed bridge in the western hemisphere.
We took seats on the top floor where the wind sliced right through us. I had to put up my hood and was still freezing! As we pulled away from the dock, some gulls followed the ferry out to Fort Sumter. A few passengers threw bread for them as they screeched and dove. I took video of them, and I would guess they are Bonaparte's Gulls, but I'm not really sure. There were a few pelicans and other birds around as well. Out in the harbor we saw Fort Moultrie, Castle Pinckney, USS Yorktown, a Custom House, and some great views of Charleston. There was a narration on the boat telling us about the harbor and the events leading up to the first shots of the Civil War, which took place at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. Once we arrived at the Fort, the ranger gave a more detailed talk about the dealings between Anderson and Beauregard, as well as explaining the six flags that flew overhead. He explained that the tree on the South Carolina flag is a palmetto and the crescent shape is from the caps of South Carolinian troops that fought in the Revolutionary War.
Then we were let loose to run around the Fort, visit the museum and stare out at the ocean for about 45 minutes before the boat brought us back to the docks. The gulls accompanied us again and the cruise ship passed close enough that we could wave at the passengers.
Since we'd been in view of the Ravenel bridge the entire time, Mike really wanted to drive over it, so we took the long way out of town, over the bridge and around Charleston on 526 before meeting up with Highway 17. There are lots of signs proclaiming it the Savannah Highway, so we knew we were headed in the right direction. We giggled as we passed the US Vegetable Labratory and got to the Wingate in Savannah just in time for sunset, dinner at Sam Snead's steakhouse and the first half of a two-night domino game.

flock of gulls

flock of gulls
Originally uploaded by soelo

These birds followed the ferry out to Fort Sumter and back. Some passengers threw bread for them as they screeched and dove. Some would rest on top of the boat and others landed on the water.
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Friday, March 20, 2009

Southeast Road Trip Day 5

This morning we checked out and drove around most of Maryland trying to find a post office! We finally found one and then drove into the city headed for the National Zoo. After a bit of trouble finding the parking lot, we got there just a few minutes before noon. The Giant Panda exhibit was at the other end of the zoo, so we decided to head there quickly and then take our time coming back. As we headed up, we saw the Przewalski's Horses and the Orangutan. Then we came to the Giant Panda exhibit! They were all three awake and walking around their enclosures. I think the first one we saw was Tian Tian (his name means "more and more") and he was eating bamboo. He'd had enough of us staring, so he went up towards the building after I got some good video. Then we walked up the bridge and saw Mei Xiang, who was resting towards the top of her enclosure and lastly we saw three year old Tai Shan, who is nearly the size of an adult.
We continued on and saw the Red Pandas eating, the Asian Small-clawed Otters sleeping in a pile, a Fishing cat and the Clouded Leopard, who was soon to be a father! Check out the clouded leopard cubs that were born at the Zoo just four days after we visited. We went inside the Small Mammal House and saw lots of Golden Lion Tamarins, Golden Lion-headed Tamarins (I guess there is a difference), Elephant-shrews and Naked Mole Rats. I think my favorite small mammal was the Prehensile-tailed Porcupine. There was a zookeeper in the enclosure and she was reaching out to them. They were moving really slowly towards her, like sloths or something.We saw the Sumatran Tiger and the male African Lion, who grunted and growled as I filmed him. Lastly, we saw Prairie dogs, Cows and Alpaca before leaving.
When we left, we drove on Rock Creek Parkway past the Watergate Hotel, the Kennedy Center and the Lincoln Memorial. We drove over the Potomac again and went by the Pentagon and the Air Force Memorial before hitting rush hour traffic on 395. Traffic stayed bad onto 95 and most of the way through Virginia. Once we hit North Carolina, all we saw were signs for hotels and outlet malls, I guess because it's on the way if you drive to Florida from just about anywhere in the Northeast. We got to our hotel in Lumberton, North Carolina after dark.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Southeast Road Trip Day 4

We took the Metro into town again and had breakfast at Johnny Rocket's in Union Station before getting back on the Tourmobile. This time we went to the Museum of Natural History and saw the Dinosaur and Fossil Mammals. Then we went through the Sant Ocean Hall and the Mammal Hall, which was just like the Field Museum with tons of stuffed animals on display. There was a Giant Panda, a Fennec Fox and a movie playing about the earliest mammals. It explained that the first ones were very small shrews during the time that the dinosaurs were the dominant aniamals. Somehow the shrews survived the meteor and became dominant. Even though it was geared towards kids, I still learned quite a bit.
After that we went down to the basement to visit the gift shop and have lunch. Then we went up to the Geology Hall and saw lots of cool rocks and minerals before going inside the little room that houses the Hope Diamond, the largest blue diamond in the world, and some large meteorites. The day at the museum had tired us out, but I insisted we go out see the Jefferson Memorial, so we got back on the Tourmobile. I'd always thought Jefferson was sort of hunched forward because I'd only seen it from behind, but he's standing straight up. As we were leaving, we saw more helicopters over the Tidal Basin like we had yesterday. Lastly, we grabbed some gelato back at Union Station and headed back to the hotel, where we played dominoes and booked our next three nights, one in North Carolina and two in Savannah.

My Flickr Pictures from March 19th


Originally uploaded by soelo

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Southeast Road Trip Day 3

We took the Metro into the city, but we rode it one stop too far. We were trying to get to Union Station and assumed they would announce the stop or we'd see a big sign. We rode back one stop and got our tickets for Tourmobile, a hop-on hop-off narrated tour of Washington D.C. After leaving Union Station, we drove past the north side of the US Capitol (the side you see on the news), and then down the National Mall past the National Gallery of Art, the National Archives, the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of American History. Then came the memorials: the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial.

We knew it was supposed to rain the next day, so we decided to focus on outdoor things today, which meant we crossed the Potomac and went on the Arlington National Cemetery leg of the tour. I remembered going out there in 1992 when my marching band came to D.C. The first stop out in Arlington was the Eternal Flame over JFK's grave, which had changed since I first saw it to include Jackie, who died in 1994. Robert Kennedy's grave is next to theirs and our guide told us that his was the only wooden cross in the whole cemetery. We took the bus up to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and on the way we passed the grave site of the pilot of the plane that was hijacked and flown into the Pentagon on 9-11 as well as the headstones for lots of men lost at sea. They aren't buried there, but their headstones are close together on hillsides throughout Arlington. There are also several areas where there are clumps of unknown soldiers from wars before most soldiers wore dogtags. At the Tomb, we saw the changing of the guard and The Canadian Cross Of Sacrifice.

Next we headed back over the Potomac to visit the Lincoln Memorial as well as the Memorials for the Veterans of the Korean and Vietnam Wars. We climbed up the steps to the Lincoln Memorial and got lots of pictures both inside and out. Adjacent is The Korean War Veterans Memorial, which was dedicated in 1995 so I had not seen it yet. It's nineteen soldiers walking through a rice paddy and a granite wall that faces them with pictures of soldiers in it. The wall is shiny, so the statues are reflected in the wall to a really cool effect. The quote "Freedom is not free", the casualty statistics and the names of countries that sent troops are all part of the memorial as well.

We went over to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which seemed much bigger than the first time I saw it. I'd not realized back then that the names were all in order, or that the design was so controversial when it was first picked out. It had been a full day, but we still had to get back to Union Station, so we got back on the bus, went past the golden sword in front of the White House and back up the National Mall. As we drove past the west side of the Capitol building, we decided to hang out there for a while, get some pictures and gaze down the National Mall. After our gazing was done, we went back to Union Station, got some souvenirs and had dinner at Pizzeria UNO.

US Capitol

US Capitol
Originally uploaded by soelo

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Originally uploaded by soelo

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Originally uploaded by soelo

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Originally uploaded by soelo

(If you are seeing this link on Facebook, you probably have to click it to see the picture.)
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Monday, March 16, 2009

Southeast Road Trip Day 1 and 2

The first two days we really just drove east. I woke up late and then we took a wrong turn before leaving the state! Things could only get better. We hit some construction and traffic going around Chicago and then stopped for gas and snacks in Indiana. After one missed exit and a stop at a KFC/Pizza Hut for dinner, we made it to Toledo, Ohio Monday night.
We woke up and booked two nights in College Park, Maryland, just outside D.C. We had breakfast at a Denny's before continuing east. I fell asleep in Pennsylvania and woke up when we entered a tunnel. I'd been using the atlas to navigate, but I decided to try Google Maps on my Blackberry. I've had it for a year now, and I always thought the GPS was not activated. But when I opened Maps up, it pinpointed our location! It works just like the non-mobile version, letting you search the map and get directions. I ended up using it quite a bit for the rest of the trip. We made it to our hotel through a bit of traffic, then went to buy shoes for Mike. He'd meant to bring some tennis shoes, but all he had were the hiking boots he was wearing. We tried two different restaurants that we found on the map, one was closed and the other was more like a dance club, so we finally settled for Applebee's.

Day Three

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The results of my 101 things in 1001 Days

Back in June of 2006, I made a list of 101 things I wanted to get done in 1001 days. March 8th, 2009 was the official end of the project. I got 49 of them done, and there are about ten others that remain half done.

The 49:
1 Go to Europe (DONE May 07)
2 Turn thirty (DONE 6/22/07)
4 Take a Papermaking or other art class (DONE 12/13/06)
6 See Los Angeles (DONE 6/22/06)
12 Take an official tour of a city, even if it just Minneapolis (DONE - Berlin 3/25/08)
13 Organize my CDs, both music and computer (DONE 7/20/06)
14 Whiten my teeth (DONE June 07 - ditto)
15 Go to The Science Museum (DONE 6/25/08)
17 Take Writing 2 (DONE Dec 07)
18 Make an informative opening page for (DONE)
21 Set aside an arts and crafts area in home (DONE - because my roommate is cool, he did it for me.)
22 Get a dishwasher and washing machine (DONE 7/3/06)
23 Read at least 33 books (one per month) (DONE Sept 2008)
28 Put something on in addition to my blog (DONE)
29 See a Panda Bear (in captivity, most likely) (DONE 3/24/08)
31 Buy more wine and learn which wineries I like (DONE)
32 Learn to make a wine spritzer that I like (DONE Nov 06)
33 Attempt to improve my handwriting (DONE, but just the attempt)
34 Drive along the west coast (DONE June 18-21, 2006)
39 Knit, crochet or sew something nice enough to wear in public - and wear it. (DONE, if my wallet counts)
40 Make one birthday or Christmas gift (DONE Feb 7, 2009)
42 Post to my blog on 87% of the days in a month. (27/31) (Done Dec 07)
47 Fill the tank with gas - drive till it’s half gone, take pictures, and then come back (DONE 10/11/08)
49 Learn to make homemade chai (DONE Oct 06)
51 Memorize 'If' by Rudyard Kipling (DONE July 31, 2006)
52 Journalize my time from age 18 to 28 (DONE I used a timeline instead)
56 Make a nice long blogroll (DONE - via rss and gmail)
57 Get my car's rear axle fixed (DONE June 12, 2006)
58 Try ordering groceries online (DONE Jan 08)
60 Update my immunizations (DONE 8/7/08)
61 Go on a blind date (DONE Sept 07)
62 Go on a real date (with someone I know or meet, not a fix-up) (DONE July 07)
64 Get rss archives down to below 100 (DONE, but then I switched to Google Reader)
70 Set up scanner (DONE Nov 30, 06)
74 Tag most of my blog entries (DONE Dec 27, 2006)
77 Organize my books and list the ones I own but haven't read (DONE 07/02/07)
78 Go to the Como Zoo (DONE May 07)
80 Buy and use a Tetsubin (DONE June 06)
86 Get a passport (DONE May 16th, 2007)
87 Make a significant contribution to a Wikipedia article (DONE Summer 07)
89 Make cookies from scratch (DONE July 08)
90 Make another dessert from scratch (DONE Nov 08, Baked Brie)
91 Make an entire meal (entree, two sides and a beverage) myself (DONE Feb 07)
93 Make an asian noodle dish in my wok (DONE May 08, Chicken Fried Rice)
94 Play board games with my friends (DONE)
96 Retake Calculus 2 (DONE Aug 08)
97 Flirt with a stranger (DONE)
98 Use craigslist for something (DONE Jan 07 - my apartment)
99 Get some more videos for my ipod (DONE - the ipod broke and I got it fixed and I never use it to watch videos anymore)

Bhudda's Hand

Bhudda's Hand
Originally uploaded by soelo

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Sensing a Theme...

Sensing a Theme...
Originally uploaded by soelo

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Seeing the Southeast

On Monday, the boyfriend and I are setting out on a thirteen day road trip. Places we plan to hit are Savannah, Louisville, Washington DC, Atlanta and maybe Nashville. Although I have done plenty of reading, map-staring and bookmarking, we aren't being too rigid in our plans. We figure we will just plan each day the night before. I think we each have some specific things we want to see, and apart from that we will just go with the flow. My must-sees are the National Mall, Giant Pandas (probably in D.C., maybe in Atlanta), the historic center of Savannah and at least the outside of the Parthenon in Nashville. A riverboat ride would be cool, too, and it seems like most of the big towns in the South have them.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Embroidered Map

embr map
Originally uploaded by soelo

I finished the routes today. I'll be going on another trip in two weeks, so I'll have another route to add, which will probably be in purple.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

March is all Mathy

Apparently today is Square Root Day (3 * 3 = 9), tomorrow is World Math (or Maths) Day, and soon it will be Pi Day (3.14).
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Sunday, March 01, 2009


The month of March was named after the Roman god Mars. In ancient Rome, March was the first month of the year, probably because spring began during the month.