Monday, August 31, 2009


Dodging crazed cyclists (boy, have we seen a lot of those) and bighorn sheep (ditto!) , we pushed off at first light from East Glacier and climbed the Going-to-the-Sun road, over Logan's Pass towards the west side of the park. We rolled through the remainder of Montana, northern Idaho, eastern Washington and over the Columbia River into our brand new home state.

This last leg of our trip was not without its own excitement. Our route followed the final portion of the original Oregon Trail through the Columbia River Gorge, which was thickly dotted with kite- and windsurfers. Rather thrillingly, our view of Mount Hood was intermittently obscured by the thick smoke of a huge wildfire that was burning near the town of Mosier. Undaunted by these inevitable hazards of western life, we glided into Portland by sunset, in plenty of time for a large salad of mixed greens and several pints of local beers at one of the many bars and clubs frequented by our tattooed, bearded, and bespectacled neighbors (and that's just the ladies).

Saturday, August 29, 2009

We're your huckleberries

Glacier is considered by many to be the crown jewel of the American National Park system. But in fact, our Canadian friends share in its glories; Glacier partners with Canada's Waterton Lakes National Park to form the world's first and only International Peace Park, which is also recognized by UNESCO as a particularly glorious part of the world's longest undefended border (our trip brings the grand total of World Heritage Sites we've chronicled here to 27, out of 890). Part of what makes the park(s) so special is that it/they is/are awfully remote. Most of the tourists who make it here are dedicated outdoorspeople, as one must be even to begin exploring the vast, steep, cold, moose-dominated, grizzly-harboring wilderness. The highlight of our visit was a seventeen-mile hike to Iceberg Lake and the Ptarmigan Tunnel, the latter reached by an ascent of nearly 1000 feet in about two miles. We were quite pleased with ourselves for not collapsing into a helpless heap on the side of the mountain to be devoured by ants and buzzards.

The culinary headline in Glacier is the wild huckleberry, a small blueberry-esque berry that is a favorite of grizzlies, especially when the great bears are in hyperphasia in preparation for their winter hibernation. The roads around the park are littered with restaurants and stands selling huckleberry-flavored everything, from jam to beer. After Tam choked down an only-just-mediocre huckleberry milkshake in Missoula, we stuck to snacking on the raw thing along the trail between intermittent grizzly-startling clapping and singing. The aspiring gastronomic etymologist will be interested to note that early American colonists, upon encountering the native American berry, misidentified it as the European berry known as the "hurtleberry," by which name the Yankee fruit was known until, through generations of slightly sloppy pronunciation, it became known as the "huckleberry." So, there you go, Mr. Finn.

More pictures of our exciting adventure are available here:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The soggy, foggy, cloud-shrouded Tetons

Our time in the Grand Tetons was brief (it turns out we're fair-weather campers), but the clouds broke enough for a peek at the peaks, after a hearty western chuckwagon breakfast of sourdough pancakes in Moose, Wyoming.

We split via Idaho for the surprisingly hip town of Bozeman, Montana, where we dried out our tent and our socks, and sought professional help for our trusty laptop after a dramatic hard drive crash - many thanks, Professor Science! (All of our material possessions have been falling apart on this trip; so far we've endured a frizzled computer, holes in our hiking boots, multiple car repairs and a flat bicycle tire - all of which, however, allows us to attest to the handiness and helpfulness of those who live under Western skies.) A prime rib dinner and a judicious tasting of some local microbrews with appropriately Montanan names (Moose Drool, Big Sky Trout Slayer Ale) has us feeling restored and ready to scale the glaciers.

More pictures of our water-logged adventures are available here:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hang on to your pic-a-nic baskets

For starters, most of Yellowstone lies within an enormous volcanic caldera. The charming geysers, hot springs and geothermal pools that have inspired so many picturesque postcards also serve to remind the savvy tourist that the whole place is fixing to blow again at any moment. Couple this potential for large-scale geological catastrophe with the more immediate likelihood of being gored by bison or mauled by a grizzly bear (Hey Boo-Boo!), and it quickly becomes clear that by setting off on an apparently innocent jaunt into the famous first-ever national park, we were taking our lives into our own hands.

Intrepid as ever, though, we steeled our nerves and set off west from Rapid City, through Deadwood Gulch, down the stunning Ten Sleep Canyon and at last to the historic Old Faithful Inn, just as the sun was setting and the namesake geyser was erupting. We just made our dinner reservations at the hotel’s main dining room, where we continued our commitment to menus of trout and wild game. (Laura was deeply impressed with the massive columns of twisted pine that hold up the inn itself. She's decided to hide away in the rafters and spend a long, thoughtful winter there someday, and is working on the problem of access to supplies of food, wood, whiskey and long philosophical tomes in various foreign languages.)

The park itself is enormous (over two million acres, bigger than the state of Delaware!) and we scrambled for four days just to scratch the surface of the myriad sights to behold. Indeed, we struggled to take in the vast wilderness, dissolving into incoherence time after time as we witnessed the massive geological and biological forces of the immense, untamed landscape. We covered all of the standard ground: geyser-gazing near Old Faithful, peering over the edges of the park's Grand Canyon, trying to look stoical in the face of sulfurous odors at Mammoth Hot Springs, and sitting in traffic while bison, elk and moose loped down the middle of the road.

We are pleased to report that, upon entering Yellowstone, we spotted a license plate from the great state of New Mexico, bringing our grand total to fifty states, plus the District of Columbia, and nine Canadian provinces and territories. The search continues for a roving pickup truck from Prince Edward Island...

More pictures of our exciting adventures are available here:

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Who's bad?

Ahh, the Badlands! ‘Hell with the fires out,’ as one early explorer had it, and for us a landscape reminiscent of the moon, with gunslingers peeping around from every corner. Luckily, we had our American flags and slingshots ready, as well as our camera.

A brief turnoff in Rapid City afforded us the opportunity to have another car part replaced (at this rate, we’ll have a whole new vehicle by the time we get to Oregon, each spark plug a treasured memento of a different stop on our travels). Fortunately, we also got the opportunity to sample some local brews at the Firehouse Brewing Company, which makes a particularly delicious beer called Smoke Jumper Stout. Tam, perhaps homesick for New Orleans in all these American wanderings, had his with some gumbo.

Then to the Black Hills of South Dakota, where there once lived a young boy named Rocky Raccoo-oon...We camped in Custer State Park, where we encountered herds of bison on the way to the bathroom each morning and witnessed traffic jams caused by the meandering of antelope and big horn sheep.

The Black Hills seem to have inspired quite a number of endearingly loony engineering projects. There’s Mount Rushmore, of course, but there’s also a wildly improbable scenic highway created by blasting hole after hole out of the huge rocks and building a road that proceeds entirely in terrifying hairpin turns and rough-hewn log bridges. Part of it leads to a succession of enormous granite columns known as the Needles, which the equally insane descendants of the aforementioned crazy engineers like to climb. We stood by and gawked at this evidence of generations of eccentric enthusiasms.

We ate a dinner of locally snared rainbow trout and recently roaming buffalo at the Custer Game Lodge, where Calvin Coolidge once brought his family and staff for a summer White House retreat. The next morning, feeling quite au fait with the ways of the West, we took to the road once more. Next stop: Yellowstone!

More pictures of our exciting adventures are available here:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Paranoia Strikes Deep in the Heartland

Crossing the Mississippi felt like a milestone, particularly since the landscape flattened into western farmland almost immediately and the road began to stretch out in front of us perfectly straight for hundreds of miles. We put the pedal to the floor, watched the amber waves of grain roll by, and fantasized about joining the ranks of rosy-cheeked farm families who live in big white houses surrounded by even bigger red barns.

But our drive through America's heartland was also disheartening. At the edge of every cornfield we passed, signs indicating which patented, genetically-engineered strain of maize was under cultivation reminded us that this iconic farmland also helps constitute the ever-growing industrial food complex. Those of our devoted readers who know us personally have already tired of our endless strains about, you know, eating “food, not too much, mostly plants,” as per Michael Pollan. Two years ago, upon returning from our travels abroad, we pledged in this space to endeavor to seek sustenance that was local, organical, and seasonally available. In Connecticut, that means eating a great many parsnips (Tam's favorite!), but it also meant delighting in getting to know the farmers at New Haven's City Seed Famers Market in Wooster Square and trying new ways of preparing their wares. Without dwelling on the myriad infuriating ways in which so much of America's food is - quite literally - manufactured, we can attest to the great pleasure to be had in seeking out sustainable and ethical food sources and connecting with a local food economy. So, with many a regretful sigh and a disapproving shake of the fist, we abandoned our pastoral fantasies of presiding over acres of tasseled corn. (Other daydreams about chucking the rat race to produce small-batch foie gras/goat's cheese/ farmhouse ale in a stunning rural setting remain intact.)

Thankfully, a pair of detours afforded relief from our pangs of self-righteousness. The first of these was the Jeffers Petroglyphs, where flat red rocks bear the faint traces of drawings scratched into the granite five thousand years ago. After a great deal of squinting, peering and gesticulating, we got the hang of it and began to point out turtles, arrows and thunderbirds with no trouble at all to the other baffled investigators surrounding the rocks.

The next stop was at the Pipestone National Monument, a quarry considered sacred by American Indians who used the red stone found there for carving peace pipes. We watched an expert drill holes into the stone in preparation for its new role and Tam contemplated purchasing one to go with his totem pole, before deciding that right now, acquiring a couch for our new love nest takes precedence. Plus, the car was jammed with provisions for our first camp dinner - potatoes, rainbow carrots and onions mixed with a little diced salami, roasted in the embers of our campfire and flavored ever-so-slightly with pine smoke.

More pictures of our exciting adventures are available here:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Plenty of fun, but no sign of the Purple One

Without a doubt, the Leinenkugel’s Brewery in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, offers the very best deal we’ve encountered on our budget roadtrip. At no cost, the 176-year-old business has samples, tchotchkes, postcards (with postage!), and among the very best tours we’ve ever taken. Our genius guide walked backwards at a pace, whizzed through facts and punchlines about the history and workings of the Germanic brewery, and harmlessly flirted with a group of old fishing buddies, all while maintaining a delightfully bored visage. Among any number of fleeting production figures, we learned that the aforementioned Curly’s Special Ale is actually produced as a "no-name" brew, available to businesses to brand as they please; locally, it’s known as both Dale’s and Schlobberknocker’s. In the tasting room, we tipped back glasses of Creamy Dark, Special Amber, and Leinie’s Original, accompanied by a salty Bavarian Pretzel.

After roaring into Minneapolis - St. Paul with a hole in our exhaust system, we took the car in for some routine maintenance and headed out to explore the Twin Cities by bicycle. We toured the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden before watching the home team get trounced by Cleveland at a Minnesota Twins baseball game (it was a shame). Exhausted from pedalling and cheering, we made for the city’s trendiest dining room, the 112 Eatery, where we feasted on sweet and sour crab salad, stringozzi with lamb sugo, and tagliatelle with foie gras meatballs. We expect mostly bison burgers from here on out.

More pictures of our exciting adventure are available here:

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pasties and a G Thing

The first leg of our trip West brought us North, through picturesque Charlevoix and Petoskey, then over the Mackinac bridge to Michigan’s wild and remote Upper Peninsula. Almost immediately, the traffic dissipated and we found ourselves on the straight and lonely country roads that lead to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on the southern coast of Lake Superior. The geological wonder from which the park derives its name is a series of sandstone cliffs that have been worn away by erosion and colored by mineral deposits in the earth.

By the time we arrived in the decidedly down-at-heel Munising Falls, gateway to both Pictured Rocks and the Hiawatha National Forest but appearing as little more than a scattering of houses around a waterfront paper factory, we were ravenous. The most illustrious of the UP’s contributions to world cuisine (not an especially vast category, to be sure) is the pasty, a kind of savory pastry stuffed with beef, potatoes, and whatever other root vegetables happen to be available (potentially including turnip, carrot, rutabaga and parsnip). The pasty actually has Cornish origins; in the 19th century, the UP experienced an influx of Cornish miners hoping to ply their trade in the region’s growing tin and copper industries. Their underground toils left their hands covered with arsenic from the chemicals used for excavation, and these hand pies were made with a convenient thick dough handle so miners could safely grasp and consume their lunch before discarding the contaminated remains. We ate ours with runcible spoons.

By the next afternoon, we were in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where we toured storied Lambeau Field and sampled a pint of Curly’s Special Ale, fermented by Leinenkugel’s Brewery (see above!) exclusively for Packers devotees. Fully fortified, we opted to stay on in Green Bay to check out the new blitz packages at preseason practice and offer the team a few useful (and much-appreciated) pointers.

More pictures of our exciting adventures Up North are available here:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Westward, Ho! Or, Chalk & Cheese Redux

Two years have passed and much has happened since we returned to the United States after circumnavigating the globe in search of enlightenment and yummy treats. Our faithful readers will no doubt join in our rejoicing that Laura has received her proper bona fides and been declared a meritorious creature of genuine intellectual worth. Moreover, she’s accepted a job offer on the West Coast, and we’ve decided to reincarnate our humble blog to document our adventures – culinary and otherwise – as we embark on the great American road trip and chase the sun towards our new lives, as locovores and fervent hippies in Portland, Oregon. (Incidentally, Tam has plummeted ever deeper into his career crisis, but remains as provocatively charming as ever.)

We embarked from Connecticut at the end of June, kissing friends, lovers, and minor acquaintances goodbye after a final feast where our bitter tears only enhanced the briny succulence of Frank Pepe’s famous clams casino pizza. After a glorious week in coastal Delaware, where we enjoyed crabs, crab cakes, beer, crabs, the company of friends and family, beer, and crabs, we began our trek West with an extended holiday in northern Michigan, where we gardened, grilled, lumberjacked and lorded it over the tennis courts.

Now, fully restored, we plan to cover the remaining three-quarters of the continent in two and a half action-packed weeks, with stops at any number of campgrounds, diners, national parks, gas stations, major metropolises, and minor roadside attractions. Despite our travels around the world, it’s clear that there is much within the confines of our own national borders with which are woefully unfamiliar. While we don’t know what we might encounter in the coming weeks, we can guarantee forthcoming accounts of roasting a grizzly bear over an open fire, killing and eating rattlesnakes with our bare hands, and hunting moose with a blowgun. And, of course, stay tuned for periodic updates on the on-going license plate game…

Pictures of our exciting pre-roadtrip summer adventures in Michigan are available here: