Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Three Days in July

"The night of July 2d was bright moonlight but it seemed to me there were spirits flitting from Little Round Top to Devil's Den and back, all night; and as I lay awake, the only sounds I could hear were the groans of the wounded lying between the lines."
1st Lt. Benjamin F. Rittenhouse, U.S.A.
5th U.S. Artillery, Battery D

Pic via freedomcurrent.com

Last night, Ridley and Tony Scott’s Gettysburg premiered on the History Channel. This documentary ‘stripped away the romanticized veneer of the Civil War to present the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg in a new light--a visceral, terrifying and deeply personal experience, fought by men who put everything on the line in defense of their vision of the American future.’ A history lover like me found it quite riveting.

My family has visited Gettysburg at least a dozen times and every time I stop by, I am humbled. To know that close to 51,000 young men lost their lives on the battlefield over the course of three hot, summer days in 1863 is unfathomable. You can’t help but notice an eerie feeling in the air as you walk around the battlefield where so many lives were cut short.

My favorite spot on the battlefield is Little Round Top. Partly because it provides an amazing vantage point of the valley below. And partly because this is where my ancestor, Lt. Benjamin F. Rittenhouse defended the Union Army against the advancing Confederates. A plaque dedicated to the Army of the Potomac stands on the site and bears Lt. Rittenhouse’s name. Needless to say, we’ve visited the site many a time – in both daytime and nighttime. (I prefer the night – it’s so dark that you can’t even see your hand in front of your face. Spooky!)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Favorites: Small Town USA

Over the years, my family and I have taken frequent trips to the Catskill Mountains. Every summer we’d spend a few days at Pleasant Acres in Leeds, NY – a throwback resort that always reminded me of Kellerman’s from Dirty Dancing. Some of the first vacation memories I have are playing Bingo poolside and taking little day trips to places like the Catskill Game Farm and Carson City – all of which no longer exist. :(

When my mom’s best friend moved to the town of Shandaken a few years later, our trips became more frequent. This gave us the perfect chance to explore some of the cute little towns tucked away in the mountains. Out of all the small towns we have been to, my absolute favorite is Phoenicia. It’s so tiny that it isn’t even an actual town; it’s considered a ‘small hamlet.’ And according to the 2000 census, not even 400 people live here, so it certainly has the quaint ‘small town’ feeling you’d expect.

pic via wikipedia

Walking down Main Street, the first thing you’ll see is a giant Davy Crockett statue. He stands guard over Homer & Langley's Mystery Spot Antiques, which I surprisingly have never been in! Along Main Street, there are tons of cute country craft stores and art galleries. My favorite is The Nest Egg on the corner that is so much fun to just browse through.

pic via google images

One of the more popular things to do in Phoenicia is to rent a tube from the Town Tinker Tube Rental and ride it down the Esopus Creek. Legend has it that gangster, Dutch Schultz buried millions of dollars worth of treasure in a safe someplace in the Catskills – possibly the Creek. You can also visit the Empire State Railway Museum and take a ride on the Catskill Mountain Railroad. So much fun!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mile High City, Here We Come!

It's official!  Dan and I are going to Denver in August.  We're really excited because Denver is in driving distance of both Wyoming and Nebraska which means we'll be able to cross 3 more states off our list!  (Am I the only one who can get excited about the idea of going to Nebraska??)

Any suggestions of things we can do or places we can eat?  :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mmm, Burgers!

Fact – burgers are delicious. Whenever I get the craving for an amazing burger, I head down to Mustang Harry’s by Madison Square Garden in NYC.   Luckily, my office is close enough that I can indulge in one whenever the mood strikes.  Everything about their burger is delicious - right down to the bun. I mean, look at it! (Beware though, they are super juicy!)

So you're probably asking yourself, "Where can I get the best burger in my area?"  Easy!  Check out the Food Network’s 50 States, 50 Burgers map to find the best ranked burgers in each state.

On a personal note, I am shocked that the Ajax Diner in Oxford, MS didn’t make this list. Their burger is sheer heaven. A hint of BBQ sauce in the patty makes it pure perfection.  Did your favorite burger joint make the list?

(And just in case you were wondering, Dan's favorite burger was at the Cattlemen's Steakhouse in Fort Worth  I had a bite of it - it was pretty delicious.)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday Favorites: Turn off the Dark

Pic via WikiTravel

Neither of my parents like roller coasters. Needless to say, we didn’t ride Space Mountain on either of our family trips to Disneyworld. We were told that because it was in the dark (truth) and went upside-down (lie!) that it was just “too scary” for us to go on. (Yet for some reason, Big Thunder Mountain was a family favorite? Explain that one to me, please!)

On a trip Disneyworld with my friend Donna a few years later, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. Space Mountain was always the first ride she rode at the Magic Kingdom, and even thought mine was Pirates of the Caribbean, she convinced me that I should just bite the bullet. Of course, I got myself all worked up on the line. And I am sure I panicked once I got in the small rocket car. I really can’t (or choose not to) remember!  But once the ride started, I knew I had a new favorite.  We actually rode Space Mountain numerous times that day. And it has now become the first ride that I go on every time I go to Disney! My goal now is to get my parents on this ride…

Back, and to the Left

(Blogger ate this post yesterday, so I decided to try and re-post it. Stay tuned for a Friday Favorite later today.)

Since this blog is about OUR quest to visit all 50 states, today's post comes to you from my better half :)

Today’s journey takes us to the site of one of America’s greatest tragedies. We’re talking about Dallas, Texas, and more specifically the Texas School Book Depository. I’ve always had a bit of an obsession about the JFK assassination and all the glorious conspiracy theories about it. I even wrote 2 term papers about it in my academic days (ok, 1 paper that I used once each for a high school and college class) but who’s counting?

It’s a fascinating location that gave us a totally surreal feeling to be standing right behind the grassy knoll, or staring right out the same window that Lee Harvey Oswald was perched behind that fateful day (if you believe such a thing!) The book depository building itself is home to the Sixth Floor Museum dedicated to the presidency of JFK and all of the events leading up to, and including the assassination. They even give quite a healthy nod and attention to the many different conspiracy theories that are out there.

Overlooking Dealey Plaza
View from the grassy knoll

As for my opinion - long story short - I went to Dallas with the firm belief that the assassination was a massive conspiracy involving the CIA and the Mafia exacting revenge on the President for his very public hostilities towards each group. However, I left Dallas totally convinced that Oswald acted alone and all these conspiracy theories are nothing but amusing fantasy. I’d get into it further, but Donald Trump has occupied my time dispatching me to Hawaii to look for the real birth certificate of our Kenyan nationalist, Muslim, Black Panther, secret socialist, non bin Laden killing President. I smell another term paper…

Monday, May 9, 2011

Lobster Mashed Potatoes

I am a big fan of steakhouses. When we booked our first trip to Vegas together, neither of us had been to the Palms Casino yet, so we decided to eat at the N9NE Steakhouse located in the hotel. Thankfully we had made reservations because, even thought it was a weekday, the restaurant was jam packed! The filet that I ordered was delicious (as was the filet Dan ordered) but we were more blown away by the magical lobster mashed potatoes side. I literally wanted to dive into the bowl and just live in it.

As if a filet and bowl of lobster mashed potatoes weren’t food-coma inducing enough…along came dessert – tableside S’mores! Hey, it’s not every day that you get to make S’mores in a restaurant, so anytime they’re on a menu, I get them no matter how full I already am. You only live once, right?

(Pix taken at the N9NE Steakhouse in Chicago)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Favorites: Starstruck

“…look to my right and I see the Hollywood Sign…”
When Dan and I told our friends and family we were taking a trip to San Francisco and Los Angeles, every single person told us that we’d love San Fran and HATE LA.  They definitely got the first part right - we sure loved San Francisco.  BUT, we loved LA even more!  (We loved it so much, we went back to visit within a year!)
The first thing I wanted to see when we got there was the iconic Hollywood Sign, but I wanted to be sure to get a prime vantage point.  Before we left, I researched to see what spots in LA offered the best views of the sign.  Some said Mulholland Drive.  Some said Griffith Observatory.  But I was seeing a lot of people talking about a dog park that provided an excellent view of the sign, so we figured check it out!  The address of the park is 3000 Canyon Lake Dr., Hollywood and to get there, you need to snake up Mount Lee.  The drive up was pretty amazing in itself.  We passed by multi-million dollar homes tucked away in the hills, wondering what celebs could possibly live in them.  When we reached the park, we were not disappointed.  We didn’t even care that our GPS had crapped out, leaving us totally lost.  We had a fantastic view of the sign!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Here's Looking at Moo, Kid

Living in New York, squirrels, possums and pigeons are the extent of the wildlife experienced on a day to day basis.  So, when a friend of mine heard we were taking a trip to Dallas, she suggested that we stop by Fort Worth Stockyards to see the cattle run.  A cattle run of REAL longhorns?  My Yankee ears sure perked up.  I had never seen a longhorn before and what better place than Texas to see my first!
Fort Worth is about 40 minutes away from Dallas, easily accessible by I-30. We hopped in the car at 10am to give us enough time to park the car, walk around and get a great spot to view the drive.

The Fort Worth Herd is the world’s only twice daily cattle drive, marching at 11:30am and 4:00pm. It was quite a rainy day when we visited, but that didn’t stop me from nudging through to get a prime spot to view the longhorns. I won’t lie - it was a bit scary watching their giant, sharp horns passing mere feet away from me. But these animals work like a well oiled machine and march exactly where they are supposed to go.

In between the cattle drives, you can visit the longhorns as they relax in the stockyards. Moo!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Must See TV: How the States Got their Shapes

A few months ago, I had DVRed a documentary on the History Channel called 'How the States Got their Shapes.'  As most things on my DVR, it went unwatched for months and ultimately deleted.  When I was flipping around the other night, I saw that the documentary was re-running, so I decided to DVR it once again.  But this time, I watched it.  And I am glad that I did, because this documentary spawned a weekly series that begins tonight!

Hosted by Brian Unger, 'How the States Got their Shapes' seeks to uncover mysteries as to how each state's borders were determined.  I've already learned things about the states that I had no idea about. Like, did you know there was a separate state in what is now Eastern Tennessee called Franklin?  I sure didn't!  I also learned that the whole Michigan/Ohio rivalry started in the 1830s over the waterfront property of Toledo.  There are tons of great stories like these and I am super excited to watch this show tonight.  I think you should check it out too!

Here is a snippet.

And while you're at it, why not challenge your geography skills with this 'Place the State' game.

Monday, May 2, 2011

All 50 in One Week?!

Dan and I realize that it's going to be years before we are able to visit all the states.  But is it possible to visit all 50 in 8 days?  Apparently it is!

While I was doing research for this blog, I came across this guy's account of his travels.  In 8 days time, he traversed across the lower 48 states by car and hopped flights to Alaska and Hawaii.  And he only used 4 vacation days!  What a remarkable feat!