Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Cross-Country Fever

I'm back! I'm back in DC. Feels like an age ago that I left...and yet here I am sitting at my old desk in my old apartment and suddenly it feels as though everything in between was just a dream. I went to China and adventured all over the country and the District...stayed the same. That's comforting. And plus I missed the DC summer - score.

I arrived today from Pittsburgh, where I had a fun time catching up with my dear, dear friend Dok. Let me start from the beginning, though, that's really more interesting. My dad and I left on the 21st and spent the night in Elko, NV, then went up to Idaho to see the Craters of the Moon National Monument. My dad correctly pointed out that it's nothing we haven't seen before on the Big Island in Hawaii, but I still thought the views of the desolate, volcanic landscape were fascinating. In Jackson Hole, WY we took a day off to explore the town and go whitewater rafting on the Snake River. Tons of fun, despite the fact my dad whacked me in the head with his paddle as we thundered our way through the "Big Kahuna" rapid. Driving up along the stunning, stunning Tetons (see picture), we then ventured into Yellowstone and spent the day admiring geysers and buffalo and the Yellowstone "Grand Canyon". Yellowstone was gorgeous, but I must admit that some of the most magnificent scenery I have ever set eyes on lay between the East entrance to Yellowstone (where we exited) and Cody, WY. Just amazing. I think I want to retire there, but probably the winters suck. From Cody we went up across Montana and into North Dakota, thereby (DRUMROLL) eliminating the last two U.S. lower 48 states I haven't been to! What with having lived in Hawaii, I have only Alaska left, baby.

On the border between North Dakota and Minnesota my father and I did a bunch of amateur geneology research into his mother's family, which lived in Glyndon, Minnesota for a generation. Glyndon is just a small farming town of 1,000 residents now, but it used to be the intersection point for two major rail lines and was a good-sized town when my grandmother lived there (she was born in 1904). My great-great-grandfather, Luther Osborn, was not only a Civil War vet but the editor/publisher of the local newspaper, the Red River Valley News. Honestly I didn't know this stuff until this trip. On a lucky excursion to Moorhead, Fargo's sister-city, we came upon the Clay County Historical Society and did a bunch of research into the family with their help. The woman there even brought out Luther's Civil War saber! Amazing. Now I see why my friend Teresa is so into this geneology stuff.

I dropped my father off in Minnesota, after taking a day off of driving to spend time with the Winslows in Wayzata, and proceeded on my own to see my BFF Marjorie in Indiana. Marjorie and her husband, Jimmy, were going cross-country the other way (moving to Mountain View, CA) and so by chance we got to meet up at her home in Indiana. That was terrific. I took a day off to visit her, then continued on through Ohio on my way to Pittsburgh. Unfortunately a relatively simply and boring drive was anything but: Katrina's deformed and demented devil-spawn children harassed me all along the way; several times the rain was coming down so fiercely I was more than a little afraid to be on the highway. Strangely enough I had a very similar experience in June of 2001, when I drove through the South on another cross-country trip and had to go through the remnants of hurricane (or maybe just "tropical storm") Allison. Psycho.

Anyway, I did make it safely and I am so excited to be home again.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Carmel Tour d'Elegance

Today my father and I went to Carmel to witness the fabulous annual phenomenon known as the Tour d'Elegance. Several (by which I mean about 40) cars showing in the world-famous Concours d'Elegance at Pebble Beach on Sunday opt to participate in the tour, which is something like a 60-mile loop around Carmel Valley (and including the 17-Mile Drive). It's quite impressive that so many of these 50, 60, 70+ years-old cars, most of them worth multiple millions, are able to complete the tour. But of course even better that we get to see them at it! Around lunchtime the cars pull into line along Ocean Avenue in Carmel. The owners get lunch while the magnificent cars sit on display for roughly two hours. It was a blast. We also roped our Carmel tenant, Eric Schlosser, into joining us for a while. Along with him, we got to meet his wife Shauna and daughter Mica (see below).

Pictured above are two great examples from the display on Ocean: a 1947 Talbot-Lago Franay Coupe and a 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Tourenwagen (extremely rare, and the most beautiful paint job I have ever seen).

Me with the Schlosser-Redfords

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Photo album

Link to online photo album.

Eating Beijing Duck

Return from the Orient

Hooooo, I'm back. Got back last night after missing a connection in Vancouver, so at the end of the day my travel time from hotel to home was somewhere around 27 hours. Well, no matter - I'm safe and whole and but for a tragically broken bracelet, all my stuff made the journey intact. Now on to the post-trip breakdown. I'm hoping to have a link to an online photo album available soon, but first I have to upload and write captions for my 300+ photographic masterpieces, no small feat. I'll also have as extensive a description of my trip as I can manage (do not underestimate my laziness). In other words, this is just a placeholder...I'll return later with more. Zai jian!

Me at the "Long Wall"

Monday, August 01, 2005

China Trip: Hong Kong (last one!)

Days 20-23: Hong Kong

An overnight train brought us from Guilin to Guangzhou, where we frantically charged to the dock to catch the hydrofoil that would take us to Hong Kong. Three hours later, docking in Hong Kong, it felt like another country. We had to go through Hong Kong immigration, change money, and start using the ubiquitous hand-sanitizer dispensers. But it was more than that. Gone was the China that we had known so well over the past three weeks, replaced by an oasis of the modern East. There is simply no way I can describe Hong Kong adequately: the crowds, the infrastructure, the vibe. Honestly I had been worried that I wouldn't like Hong Kong too much - my experience in Yangshuo had taught me to be wary of over-Westernized China - but I loved it virtually the moment my foot hit the soil.

Friday night was our final night together as a group, and Dylan led us out into the Temple Street markets for dinner. The restaurant we went to was classic Dylan: shabby, local, and very basic. Not what most Hong Kong tourists would gravitate to. I loved it, though, and especially enjoyed ordering the frog dish when Dylan announced that he would leave the menu selection entirely in our hands (my subsequent attempts to convince the others that I had ordered chicken unfortunately did not meet with much success).

Although Friday evening marked the official end of the tour, I decided to spend a couple extra days enjoying Hong Kong before my return to the States. The first day I joined up with several other stragglers - Jen, Craig, and Georgina - for some exploring around Kowloon and Hong Kong. Our first adventure (to find some famous Hong Kong dim sum) ended in disaster when not only could we not find the place, but it began to pour cats and dogs. (Actually, the rain wasn't too much of a surprise, since it rained pretty much constantly during my time in HK.) We quickly decided on the fabulous Museum of Art as our back-up plan, and managed to kill an hour or so admiring the lovely scroll paintings and carved jade there until the rain finally let up enough for us to venture outside again. Then, with the sun shining, we hopped aboard the Star Ferry and traveled over to Hong Kong Island, where we caught the Peak Tram to the summit of Victoria Peak. Our timing really was outstanding; it was a rare sunny hour that coincided with our trip from Kowloon and allowed us to fully admire the gorgeous view from the peak. Of course at this point I was resigned to the wet of rain, but a cloud really would have sucked.

After a delicious dinner and another stroll through the Temple Street markets (through the pounding rain, naturally), I took my leave of Georgina, who was flying out that night, and the Scots, who were departing early the next morning. That left me on my own for Sunday. Although it was raining once again, I set off on my exploratory adventures undeterred. The lovely Hong Kong Park was my first destination. My mother had recommended the walk-through aviary, which I liked so much I walked through it twice. I also took a detour through the park's lovely botanical garden (which, I was grateful to note, was indoors) on my way back to the MTR. The afternoon I filled with directionless wanderings through the Plant, Bird, and Ladies Markets in Kowloon. The Bird Market was an absolute marvel, with dense stalls packed floor-to-ceiling with trilling, howling, chattering birds of all kinds. Cacophony reigned. The birds were great, though - I've already begun to plan for when I can get my own. Seems like a very sensible pet for an apartment dweller. The Plant Market was also great, and featured everything from blue roses to bamboo (oh, and in fact I even ran into a few venus flytraps, the coolest plant ever).

With the close of the day, I had finally reached the end of my China Adventure. All that was left was to catch the shuttle over to the airport and fly the twelve hours over the Pacific Ocean into Vancouver (piece of cake, really). What an experience it's been! I'm so grateful I had the opportunity to make this trip, and I can't wait to return to China in the future. I'm sure I'll hardly recognize it.