Sunday, July 29, 2007

Westward Ho!

NOTE: Pictures will come later

Day 20 - Baltimore, MD to Indianapolis, IN. 590 miles. Estimated time - 9 1/2 hrs. Actual time - 12 hrs.

Thomas had been pretty fussy the day before, but was very good on the drive. We spent the night with Curtis's high-school girlfriend, Colleen, and her family.

Day 21 - Indianapolis, IN to St Louis, MO. 244 miles. Estimated time - 4 hours. Actual time - 4 1/2 hours.

Colleen rearranged her schedule to have the morning off so we got to explore Indi a bit with her. We went to a creamery and had a wonderful lunch of milk, yogurt, and ice cream at the bar. Then we went to the art museum, which was much nicer than I expected. They had an exhibit of Bellini and devotional art that was nice. The museum was also free, which is my favorite price.

In St. Louis, we were going to meet up with my sister boxedcookies and her boyfriend Craig. But they weren't coming up until she got off work, so we went over to Ted Drewes. Their frozen custard concretes are a St. Louis institution and were even on Alton Brown's road food show. My sister's working for a hotel chain now and used her employee discount to get two rooms in downtown St. Louis. (They live about 2 hrs south of St. Louis.) I had never stayed in a suite before. Boy-o got to sleep in the living room and it was the first time he'd ever not been in our room. The hotel also had free hot breakfast and afternoon cocktails. My sister also presented us with our own copy of the new Harry Potter book.

Day 22 - St. Louis

We went to Mass at the new cathedral (built 1907). It has gorgeous mosaics. Then, we did the Anheuser-Busch tour. We'd been to two other Budweiser factories, but this one was special. It's actually really pretty. There are intricate wrought-iron railings, stained-glass windows, and chandeliers all over. Boxedcookies and Craig took us to a microbrewery that they liked called Schlafly. Oddly, it was the same kind of beer that willowlaughter had had in the fridge in Baltimore. The tour wasn't much since the girl didn't know much about beer, but we enjoyed the free samples. They also had a surprisingly good restaurant that served venison and buffalo. We were going to go to the art museum, but it was closed, so we just went back to the hotel for cocktails. I never thought I'd ever go out drinking with my sister. For dinner, we went down to the historic Laclede's Landing district and had fun pushing the stroller up steep hills and across cobblestones. Thomas thought the world was ending. We wanted something cheap, so I got to add another Old Spaghetti Factory to my list. (We'd also gone to one in Louisville, KY.)

Day 23 - St. Louis, MO to Cole Camp, MO

In the morning we stopped at an awesome Catholic supply store that happens to be across the street from Ted Drewes. We needed to pick up the cat from my parent's house so we decided to just spend the night instead of having someone bring the cat up to I-70. My mom didn't seem to mind that her only grandson was coming back. We set up the tent in the backyard with with air mattress, which is the best way to camp. The baby slept in his portacrib in Renee's room, which was very weird for me. She brought him out to us when she had to leave in the morning.

Day 24 - Cole Camp, MO to Kansas City, MO.

In the morning, we had breakfast with my grandma and my dad who had just gotten off the midnight shift. Then we picked up the cat, and headed off again. We were staying with Becca who's getting married next month. Her fiance was out of town, but she was watching his son, Ryan (age 6.) The four of us went to a Royals game with more of Becca's family. I hadn't been to Royals Stadium for at least 15 years. Thomas didn't care about the game at all, but Ryan had fun sampling all the concession offerings. The game itself was terrible. The first inning lasted an hour. The Yankees sent up 9 batters, the Royals, only 3. It was like watching Yankee batting practice. It was getting late and the kiddos were tired, so we left at the top of the 5th. Derek Jeter was already 3 for 4 for the night and the score was something like 9 to 1.

Day 25 - Kansas City, MO to Golden, CO.

A long, long drive, but the baby was pretty good. He only wanted to eat every 3 hours and seemed to start fussing shortly before rest areas. Curtis thought that he was doing better in the car because he was older. It sounds strange because we haven't been on the road that long, but the trip does represent a quarter of Thomas's life.

Day 26 - Golden, CO

Sam had to leave at O'dark hundred for a business trip and Matt had to work, so Curtis and I got to amuse ourselves for the day. After we got back from their wedding, we'd been horrified to learn that New Belgium Brewing was practically walking distance from the airport that we'd flown in and out of. It was better going now, though, since I couldn't have sampled anything then. They're famous for their Fat Tire Ale, but all their beers are good. We sampled one the best beers we'd ever had there. It was called La Folie and was a brown ale that had been barrel aged for 1-2 years. The oak from the barrel had given the ale an amazing taste. It was certainly a let down to go from there to the Coors plant in Golden. It was a pretty good tour, though and it was the first time we'd ever seen a malthouse. Coors is alone among big breweries in malting its own barley.
We had been warned that parking at Coors Field for Rockies games was really expensive. Sam told us about a cheaper lot nearby. When we got close, we saw the sign for the cheaper lot, but couldn't get over in time. We ended up turning into the expensive, official lot. We got a pass to let us out and as we were driving back to the cheaper lot, we scored a major coup. FREE PARKING!! There was an open spot in front of an apartment building. Curtis parallel-parked the Explorer with about 18 in of extra space. The Rockies were playing the Dodgers, but it was just an ok game. When it started raining halfway through the game and I saw lightening (we were in the upper seats), we decided it was time to go. The rain lightened as we walked to the car and then came down harder. When we got back to the apartment, Sam was back from Kansas and pjdf was on his way over. He's still galavanting around the country climbing rocks and seems to be completely recovered from his last blog post.

Day 27 - Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig
We went to Sam's Club to get gas and took a look at their bourbon selection. Now we can tell what company makes what based on the town listed. Anyway, their prices were better than at the distillery. Of course, you can't get everything. Then we hit the road and didn't get home until midnight Pacific time. Thomas had a wailing/screaming fit around 9pm Mountain time, but once he finally went to sleep, he stayed asleep the rest of the trip.

It's weird being back. We'd forgotten what the place looked like (a mess) and there were a disturbing number of cockroaches (uuuugh). We're really looking forward to moving. The plan is to do a blitzkrieg pack and then hightail it to Fresno (because we've barely touched Curtis's side of the family.) Still don't know where we're moving too, but hopefully something good will show up on Craigslist this week.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Eastward Ho!

Day 1 - Las Vegas, NV to Golden, CO. 743 miles. Estimated time - 10 1/2 hrs. Actual time - ~16 hrs

I think the actual time versus the time Google Maps thought the drive should take says it all. Thomas decided to have a "bad day." There were many stops to feed baby or comfort baby and with exits few and far between, there was much wailing whenever he wanted out of his carseat, while we tried to find a place to stop. We got to Sam & Matt's after 11pm, exhausted and hungry.

Driving through Utah

Day 2 - Golden, CO to Cole Camp, MO. 728 miles. Estimated time - 10 1/2 hrs. Actual time - Didn't make it.

The plan had been to get a nice early start, but with another long driving day ahead of us, we needed some sleep. The child who had hardly napped the previous day didn't sleep any better at night, so I was up every couple of hours with him. I was in no condition to drive, so thankfully, Curtis was able to sleep in and was reasonably well rested. We dropped Sam off at the airport and realized that given how much time yesterday's drive had taken, we were looking at a 3 or 4 am arrival in Cole Camp. That seemed suicidal, so we called up Lisa and asked about crashing with her parents in Kansas City. It was quickly set up in exchange for plenty of baby-holding. Thomas slept for several hours in the beginning of the drive, but it was still around 10pm before we got to KC.
Lisa's mom, Nancy

Day 3 - Kansas City, MO to Cole Camp, MO. 118 miles. Estimated time - 2 hrs. Actual time - 4 hrs.

I realize that I haven't mentioned the cat yet. That's because Beckham is the best traveler of any of us. It would either lie on my lap, the back seat, or on a baby blanket thrown over some luggage in the way back. After the first couple stops, it decided that the car was much better than outside and didn't even want to get out. We had its litter box on the floor behind the driver's seat and its food and water on the other side. If only Thomas traveled half as well as Beckham. In any case, we arrived at my parent's house to much rejoicing. We spent the next two days lounging with my folks and visiting all my grandparents.
Thomas enjoys meeting his great-grandpa

Day 6

We took my dad and visited 5 Missouri wineries. Missouri grows some lesser-known grape varieties like Foch, Vidal, Chambourcin, and Seyval. It is possible to get some interesting flavors from these grapes if the wine is made well, but we found very little wine that was made well. Missourians apparently like their wine sweet. Very sweet. Sugar does not always cover up flaws in the wine, however. Another common addition was fruit flavoring and lots of it. All that said, it was interesting and we found a wine made from apples instead of grapes that I really liked.

Day 7

The entire Ives clan gathered for my cousin's wedding. It's the first wedding that Curtis and I have gone to that didn't generate a good story. It was a nice, traditional ceremony and a simple reception in the church's basement. We saw more of my relatives and enjoyed sandwiches and cake. No one did anything crazy and nothing fell apart. It wasn't boring, it was just . . . nice. Strange.

Day 8 - Cole Camp, MO to Shepherdsville, KY. 493 miles. Estimated time - 8 hrs. Actual time - 11 1/2 hrs.

Now we had gotten the hang of operating on Baby Standard Time (BST) and counting on adding 50% extra time to the map estimates. We were going to camp in Kentucky and I had already made a reservation and paid for the site. The camp office closed at 10pm, but we should have enough time to go to church with my family and have lunch out before we left. The drive went pretty well. We were able to take most of our baby stops at rest areas before he was too upset. Curtis was happy to see the Gateway Arch as we drove through St. Louis.

We arrived at the campground at 10 minutes to 10. Curtis had to set our tent up in the dark. Perhaps we should have at least taken it out of the box before we left. We were camping in comfort. Our new tent was large enough to hold Thomas's portacrib as well as our queen size aerobed, which we inflated using an inverter from the car cigarette lighter. It was extremely humid and fairly hot when we went to sleep, but I woke up at 3am freezing. We hadn't brought blankets, so I threw Curtis's shirt over Thomas (who stayed asleep the whole time) and huddled against Curtis (who only woke up from me shaking the bed). Hmm, so maybe I was the only one who was cold.

Day 9 - Kentucky Bourbon

We toured the Jim Beam and Maker's Mark distilleries. At Maker's Mark, we got to stick our hands in the vats of fermenting grain and taste it. It was fabulous. Jim Beam had the oldest still in the U.S. and also the smallest one. We visited the Four Roses distillery, but they were on summer shutdown, so we just saw a video, but we got to taste their bourbon. It's only recently been reintroduced in the U.S. after being sold exclusively overseas, mostly in Japan. Now you can only get it in KY and in NYC. We went to Wild Turkey, but missed the last tour, so we watched their video and hung out in the gift shop. It was a fabulous day. We decided that we wanted to visit another two distilleries before going to Baltimore. We camped next to the more western of the two at a state park, which was only $12 instead of the $36.75 we paid at the K.O.A. That price difference becomes important for the next part of the story.
I can't believe they let us do this

Day 10 - Bardstown, KY to Baltimore, MD. 600 miles. Estimated time - 9 1/2 hours. Actual time - I don't even want to think about it.

The alarm is set for 7 am. At 6:20, a parade of riding lawnmowers drives down the sidewalk that runs through the center of the tent area. Thanks a lot guys. At 6:30, the engine starts on one of the heavy equipment parked next to our tent. I had never figured on construction crews getting such an early start. We get up and the backhoe begins moving mulch. One of the guys comes up and warns us that he's going to be making quite a bit of dust and noise. He felt bad about waking us, so he brought us breakfast. McMuffins, OJ, and coffee. We had a nice chat and then our new friend Joe fired up his giant, remote-controlled chipper/shreader and got to work on some trees. We couldn't be too annoyed at the whole thing since they only charged $12 and we got breakfast out of it.
I love the smell of mulch in the morning

Since we were up, we got to the first distillery, Heaven Hill, before they opened. Only we had thought they opened at 9, but no, not till 10. Since we had over an hour to wait, we went into town and visited the proto-cathedral. A very nice old lady gave us a tour and told us all kinds of stories. We went back to Heaven Hill and watched their film (these films were great opportunities to nurse the baby), looked at their museum, walked through the warehouse, and had a tasting. Turns out that they make Evan Walker, Ancient Age, and almost every other bourbon we had heard of. It was at Heaven Hill where there was the big fire a few years ago that burned down 7 of their warehouses and their distillery. Rather than rebuild, they bought a distillery in another town.

We then went to the Buffalo Trace distillery. While they make bourbon under many labels that we had seen before, their flagship brand is only sold in KY and a few other eastern states. After that, it was already in the afternoon. I said we could find another campground, but Curtis wanted to push on and see how far we could get. Baby went to sleep, I fell asleep, but the Energizer Curtis just kept going. We arrived in Baltimore at 4:30 am.

Days 11-18 - Chillin' with the Godparents
We've had a great time with Willowlaughter and jonathan. We've done a lot of sleeping and just hanging out, playing video games and talking. Curtis read the first 6 Harry Potter books for the first time. We also went to D.C. and saw the National Zoo and the basilica there. In Baltimore, we went to the aquarium, an Orioles game, and a Mass in Latin at the basilica here. We also spent an afternoon in Philadelphia and had dinner with Curtis's sister in Princeton. Princeton, NJ was our point furthest east. Tomorrow (Day 20) we go west with stops planned in Indianapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Golden.
Thomas loved Philly. Here he is asleep in front of Independence Hall and asleep in front of the Liberty Bell.