Minneapolis

We’re really only in Minneapolis for a day, so though I’d like to say more, this part of our trip is more rushed than we had originally planned. More on that later.

I finally had fried cheese curds last night. They were pretty good, but not as good as I’d built them up to be in my head. The curds themselves didn’t have as much taste as I’d hoped, and were mostly just salty. It’s possible I’m getting too old for fried cheese. The rest of the food we had, though, was delicious, and I’d like to particularly plug Gigi’s cafe, where we got brunch. They bus your tables for you there.

My friend Anna, whom we’re visiting, uses Nice Ride bikeshare to bike to work, so we used that to get around a little bit. Minneapolis has this thing I wasn’t aware of called the Greenway, which is a limited access bike road that goes below street level. In addition to making me feel like an elf every time someone said it, the Greenway eliminates most of what I find terrifying about the idea of city biking: though it’s fairly well-trafficked, you’re not competing with cars or pedestrians. Add to that the actual greenness of the slopes between the Greenway and the buildings it’s behind, and it’s much calmer (at least at the non-peak times we were on it) than I expect from city transportation.

According to Anna, biking for transportation is really popular there. I’m impressed with the intentionality of design of the biking infrastructure, because it means that even relatively casual bikes (me, definitely) can comfortably ride, unlike in a denser city like New York where it at least seems to be a fairly extreme sport, best left to the professionals. I’m sure the geography helps–there were more bike lanes than I’m used to in Madison as well, and I imagine there’s a bigger bike lobby in places with fewer hills generally, but actively creating limited-access bike roads is something I’d like to see in more places in the US.

Minneapolis was the first place we’ve been on this trip that I’ve really never  been to, or been anywhere around, and it was definitely different from other cities I’ve spent more time in, but South Dakota, where we are now, is definitely another order of magnitude different. Stay tuned for that entry later this week!

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Madison

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So, we’ve been in Madison, Wisconsin for a week now, and won’t be leaving until the end of this one, and man has it been great to just be in a place rather than traveling every few days. We’ve had Babcock Hall ice cream a couple of times, once on Union Terrace, and once at the Monona Bait and Tackle, which is a charming fastish food place on Lake Monona. I recommend both, although the Monona Bait and Tackle is pretty off the beaten path.

We haven’t had any fried cheese curds, unfortunately. We were thinking about getting some at the Madison Farmer’s Market, but that ended up feeling like a little too much, though I guess fried cheese is always kind of too much.

The farmer’s market was very pleasant though: it takes place in the block around the capitol, so there are some nice garden areas opposite the stalls. We seem to have arrived in the middle of pea season, because we got some incredible sugar snap peas. It seemed like all the farms had mountains of them. If we were staying til Saturday, I’d get some more for the road.

As this is another place I’ve been visiting for many years, we’ve also been back to some old favorites, notably Monty’s Blue Plate Diner, which is a great diner in, I believe, an old gas station. It has a wonderful vegetarian selection, which is a big deal for me, but Will and my Aunt Nancy also vouched for some of the meat dishes.

When I visited Wisconsin as a kid, my brother and I would each have a night when we visited Aunt Nancy by ourselves, and she and I would often go to Monty’s. It was sometimes a struggle for a very picky eater (as well as a vegetarian) to find things to eat at my Grandpa and Grandma’s retirement community in Milwaukee, so I was always excited for the meatless loaf of the gods, or pancakes for dinner, or more of their great menu.

As pleasant as it’s been to rest here, I’m also excited to get back on the road, heading to Minneapolis!

Chicago and/or Self Reflection

As you might have noticed, Will and I went to way, WAY too many places last week. No doubt relatedly, we had something of a mismatch in terms of expectations of how our time in Chicago was to be spent. It’s possible I may have said something to the effect of “well I guess we’re not going to do ANYTHING in Chicago!” in a moment of great personal unreasonableness. I wasn’t at my best.

Then, after an afternoon of walking along the lakefront, I had a moment, just started laughing and couldn’t stop, because we couldn’t figure out what we were going to do. In the end, we walked along the lake for a while, I went to the Art Institute, and Will hung out with his friend Alexander, and my fomo was assuaged.

And, since it’s been a week now since we were actually in Chicago, I’m going to leave this one as a baby entry so I have some time to write one on Madison before we leave!

Cincinnati/Restaurant Blog Interlude

I’ve been to Cincinnati twice now: once when it was very cold, and once when it was very hot. I’m sure there are other temperatures that happen there, but not as far as I know about. That means that both times I’ve been there, I’ve spent more time than I might otherwise have inside.

Nonetheless, we did manage to get out of the house, and one of the biggest things I noticed was that Cincinnati has a lot more great restaurants than I had been led to believe. Not, of course, that anyone had said “man, you know where has terrible food? Cincinnati,” but my expectations had not been built up. So, here are some mini restaurant reviews of places we went:

Django:  Really good taco place; pretty cheap. Spent a while dissecting the logic behind their cool, stainless steel taco holders. Great fancy cocktails.

Taste of Belgium: Man oh man, I wish I’d discovered this place earlier so I could have eaten every meal there. I had a savory crêpe, although there were a lot of sweet crêpes that sounded intriguing too. Our waitress gave us some waffles to go that you can heat in the toaster, and those are also amazing.

KaZe: Really good sushi place. I’m vegetarian, but Will vouched for the fish sushi, and Chloe enjoyed the shrimp buns. They also have fancy cocktails, and we sat at the sushi bar and watched the chefs make sushi, which was a good time in and of itself.

The Littlefield: Chloe and I went there last January, so it’s been a while, but it’s a great fancy bourbon bar with an intense list of cocktails.

There were other good places we went in January, and I’m sure there are more, but I wanted to give these a shout out. Next entry: Chicago!

A Hot Second of Boston

First off, I want to say that my mother was right, and I was wrong: it was definitely a bad idea to stay in a dorm-type hostel before a job interview. It definitely would have been worth it to spring for a private room. Nota bene, everyone.

I didn’t actually spend any real time in Boston, so I don’t have many good travel stories. I flew in for roughly 36 hours for a job interview, although I did have a very pleasant time in Cambridge when I visited last winter, probably the week before it got cold and started snowing forever. In the words of Avery, there were youth everywhere, and several good brunch spots–an invaluable metric of city quality.

We did go to Boston Beer Works, because I was feeling a little nauseous after my interview (I blame a turbulent flight and nerves), because I felt that the best remedy for this was some pretzels and beer cheese, and a martini. While ‘helped’ is a strong word for what they did, the pretzels and beer cheese are incredible. Definitely recommend.

Anyway, we successfully drove across southern Ohio via Cleveland (see below), and had incredible falafel from the Athens Greek Restaurant in Mansfield, Ohio. Entry on Cincinnati coming soon!

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The House in Marietta

I’ve always been captivated by my grandparents’ house. I believe it’s been in my grandmother’s family since it was built in 1898. They’ve kept it very well; it’s a beautiful house, with some great old furniture. They’ve re-done some rooms over the years, and have just had what was originally a kitchen re-plastered. Nonetheless, much of the house has been a constant in my life, having visited at least every couple of years, if not every year, since before I can remember.

Perhaps it’s because I spent too much time reading about castles and estates as a child, but the idea of a family dwelling captured my imagination. It’s only been later that I’ve appreciated how lucky I am to have access to family history, let alone the antiques and keepsakes that come with  Of course, I understood that an estate and title are a different thing entirely, and that’s probably a good thing, given what gothic literature has taught me people will do to preserve and/or gain them, but it did give me a sense of continuity with my predecessors, as well as my modern extended family.

The house turned 100 years old in 1998, and the family had a huge party for it. I’m sure there are relatives I literally haven’t seen since then; second cousins and the like. Of course, I was pretty young at the time, and certainly couldn’t name everyone who was there. I mostly remember the people I knew well; my grandparents and first cousins, and some second cousins we kept in better touch with. I know there were other kids there because at a big event like that, all the kids get kind of wrangled together, but I didn’t really keep up with any of them. I imagine growing up with social media (well, I can cross that one off my internet writer list), kids probably actually keep in touch with people they meet only briefly in real life, but I wasn’t at the point of making phone calls and writing letters when I was seven (really? 7? wow).

In the context of this trip, it’s been congenial to be somewhere pleasantly familiar where I know where the light switches are and how to work the shower. Our next planned destination is Cincinnati, but if you’re very good I happen to have time, I may do a bonus entry for my very brief visit to Boston.

On Scary Clowns

First off, I’d like to say that I’ve had a lovely time in Pittsburgh, and that Helen and their roommates have been very generous in allowing us to stay with them. Secondly, my taste is not universal, and other people’s reactions to art are not less valid because they are different from mine. I’m sure whoever put up this picture has a wonderful relationship with it, and I in no way intend to diminish that relationship by describing my batshit insane reaction to it.

The first time I went into the bathroom of Helen’s house, I noticed a wood parquet picture of a clown. In true optimist fashion, I tried to find it charming, and instead concluded that it was too bad that Stephen King has ruined clowns forever. Then, I returned to Helen and Will and forgot about it until it was time to go to bed.

I often walk around the house with my glasses off, probably as a holdover from when I thought I only needed them to see the blackboard. Normally this is fine; nothing is far enough away that I really can’t tell what it is, and I know who everyone is so I don’t have to recognize anyone. Unfortunately, blurrier vision seriously enhances optical illusions, apparently. Coupled with the lack of sleep left over from from Oberlin commencement weekend, it pushed the picture from being difficult to like to downright frightening. At the time, I had a very complicated theory involving the ambiguously-drawn eyes and the angles of the head and hair, which I doubt will hold up to scrutiny in the light of day. Regardless, the eyes were definitely following me, and I just could. not. handle it.

Since Will and I started talking about taking this trip, people have been warning me that living in different places every week was going to take its toll in terms of figuring out how other people’s showers work, finding grocery stores, and sleeping areas with suboptimal back support. I can say unequivocally that that first night was when the travel madness hit. I probably spent at least 10 minutes trying to get ready for the shower while constantly turning around, trying to catch its eye. At some point, I had to give up. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter if something is totally irrational, you just have to indulge your own caprices.

So, in this case, I took it down from the wall, made Will tell me that yes, it’s terrifying and I’m not a crazy person, and then put it somewhere downstairs where I wouldn’t find it.

Anyway, by now, we’ve left Pittsburgh and gone on to Marietta, OH, and hopefully no more travel madness on my part.