Pole Dancing, Craft Beer, Good Times in Boise, Idaho

I am going to crave those scones from the little coffee shop in Ellensburg. They were the most delicious scones I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. Then again, most coffee and baked goods would be comforting after hauling across a snow-covered pass with all-season tires for almost an hour, hoping 18-wheelers don’t bash into you coming down the other side. No, actually, the scones really were that good.

It was difficult to choose, but the cinnamon peach ones were calling to me, and I grabbed a whole grain apple scone for good measure as well. They were good company as I drove through a thick haze up another pass and down into the Yakima valley, where a good portion of our local fruits and vegetables are farmed. Not too much more will be growing in this frost.

I was hoping to get my car to Utah before snow fell, but I can’t complain!

Once day broke and I entered the Snoqualmie area, less than 40 minutes into my drive, most of my view for the rest of the day was white, either in the form of snow-dusted foliage or dense fog.

After several more snowy mountain passes, and miles of pure white road, I emerged into the farming valleys of Idaho and rolled into Boise.

Downtown Boise and the Capitol Building. The brand new Whole Foods, the first in Idaho, opens the day after I leave, of course.

I passed through a few blocks of downtown, saw the capitol building in the distance, and met up with my couch surfing host, Andrew, in a neighborhood nearby. I told him how much I loved Boise already. Nothing is really that far, and everything in the greater downtown area is easily bikable. After one more pass through downtown I would come to realize it’s about the size of Reno with the feel of Portland.

After a stress-free ten minute drive I was clear on the other side of the city (compared to the one hour or more it would take to do that in Seattle) and at Ophidia Studio. Aerial Yoga, Poi (fire dancing), and Belly Dance are just a few classes that compliment pole training at Ophidia. I met the owner, Allison Holley, at the Pole Convention in LA this past summer, and decided to stop by for a visit.

The main room features hanging aerial yoga silks and a wooden floor, a classic fitness or yoga studio look. The back room is where all the pole magic happens! A small raised stage surrounded by mirrors features a pole in the middle. Another six or seven spinning poles adorn the rest of the room. Each pole can be set to spin or static and reaches, honestly, much higher than I have been used to climbing in the last few months!

Our first class at 6pm focused on a few spins, holds, and tricks. At 7pm we donned our high heals (she has a few pairs of loaner shoes for students) and learned a simple but sexy routine. At the end of each class Allison dims the lights and lets us rock out for a song or two. No matter how hard you work on new moves or gracefulness, pole is meant to be fun!

Ophidia Studio’s Sexy Pole Room!


I joined Julie, my other couch surfing host, for a post-pole recovery meal of beer and poutine at Bitter Creek. I’m in Idaho. I have to eat the potatoes. Julie told me about a nearby burger and fries joint that features several different kinds of potatoes and yams, that you can have cut into any shape.

“You can get purple curly fries if you want,” she told me. I may have to do just that, after a bit of sleep.

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How to Fly Standby on Delta Airlines

Is it an art form? A science? Or just a lot of good luck charms and mysticism?

Personally I believe in the last option…

It’s not shocking that I have far more experience regarding the logistics of flying down under than I do domestically in my own country. For domestic travel I’ve been flying Southwest Airlines exclusively for the last few years, mostly because of the flexibility in their booking and re-booking options. For overseas travel I’ve used Qantas and Air New Zealand, and Jetstar (a subsidiary of Qantas) for travel between and within Australia and New Zealand. I am planning to travel the rest of the world in coming years, especially Japan and Europe, and am looking at other options for affordable travel with flexible options.

Airlines such as Delta can not only get me to just about any city or country in the world, but also have rather luxurious First or Business class sections on most of their flights, especially those overseas. My grand fantasy was to be able to use a Delta Buddy Pass to fly a red-eye from Seattle to New York City, on any date that I wished, in a comfortable, fully-reclinable first class seat and get fantastic rest so I could greet the early morning sunshine and the hustle and bustle of a fresh new day in Manhattan. The world would be at my finger tips, and I would be right there ready to conquer it. Like a boss.

My good friend and fellow outdoor-enthusiast, Danielle, the one who procured said buddy pass, is by now very used to my fantastic and glamorous views regarding my life, but didn’t want to burst my bubble right away. Unfortunately the buddy pass was not Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket I had been dreaming of. Instead of being greeted with cocktails and red carpets, I barely got to New York at all that night. I got a window seat, but I forgot my pillow and how cold airplane walls get, so I slept horribly and felt miserable and stiff when I arrived. Since my father had driven out to Long Island the morning before (so much for flexibility with my travel plans), I had to spend another hour and a half alone in transit getting out to see my relatives instead of bursting with energy and romping around in the busiest city in the country like it was my playground. Oh, and it was raining.

On the way back to Seattle I wasn’t able to get on the 9:30am or the 12:30pm flights from Albany to Detroit, but fortunately I got the very last seat on my only option from Detroit to Seattle. I had never been so happy to sit in a middle seat for five hours straight in all my life. I suppose my travel plans weren’t as flexible as I originally thought. I just wanted to wait until the last minute to confirm them. I clearly went about this all wrong, and I intend to learn from my experiences and do it the right way next time!

Rules for Success Regarding Standby Delta Travel:

1. Obtain Buddy Pass from close friend who is willing to check standby lists any time between 5am and midnight to see if going to the airport is even worth your while.

2. Dress well, look presentable and be polite.

3. Do not carry excess luggage. If possible, try not to check bags.

4. Don’t fly to Atlanta, unless your final destination is Atlanta.

5. Do not fly out of any airport from which you can see cows and pastures – this normally is an indication of smaller planes, and thus fewer total seats leaving the airport on any given day.

6. Try to have several exit strategies before leaving your home airport, to avoid having to pay for a hotel in a hub city.

7. Carry a good luck charm at all times. Personally I use a good luck lady bug that my mom gave me before I went to New Zealand.

8. Always be flexible with travel dates and/or destinations. If all other flights are overbooked, be willing to fly to Brazil. Hey, life is an adventure.

Autumn in New York, Part III

The adventure moves northward…

… through the perilous and infuriating traffic of Long Island, along the Belt Parkway towards JFK, around the Aqueduct Race Track, through the local streets of Queens, over the Throgs Neck Bridge, past the affluent northern suburbs…

Not long after leaving the boroughs of New York our course is set on the winding Taconic Parkway, a road designed for the enjoyment of the sights and sounds of the country, and maintained as such by state troopers every few miles. The fall colors become more pronounced as we drive north, and give visual texture to the haze of fog surrounding us. The day so far has taken what little energy I had out of me, but as we leave the thick, oppressive urban air behind us, my stress and anxiety melts away. My father and I settle in to our drive and ease our minds by doing what we do best: putting them to work planning our next trip to NYC.

We make a quick stop at Taconic State Park. I put my feet in the cool water of the lake and squish them into the soft brown sand. Across the water is a hillside with an impressive display of fall foliage, and in the distance the lake continues to the north.

On our way back to Albany we take the scenic route, the ‘motorcycle route’ as I call it, through Valatie and stop at Golden Valley Farms. The expansive display of apples in crates and buckets can only be compared to a perfume section of the department store. Each varietal has its own texture and flavor, many of which are crosses of each other, with their own unique charm. I wade past classic New York varieties and finally arrive at my objective, the macintosh apple, the grandest of all apples, tart and sweet, like the personality of the New Yorker enjoying it. When I reach the counter I can’t resist a sugar cider donut fresh from the oven. It and my apple strudel, cold cider and two apples are my first meal of the day. Well worth the wait.

We continue our drive through the gentle upstate New York rain storm towards Guilderland. As it is approximately 4:30pm, we hit ‘Albany rush hour’ on I-90, a slight delay of about 2-10 minutes, depending on time of day, where your car may go below 25mph, but most likely not, unless you are merging onto I-87.

Still in a bit of a mental haze, I arrive at my mother’s house and get myself sorted. I make my bed upstairs and have a slice of my mother’s apple pie, fresh out of the oven. I’m home.

Autumn in New York, Part I

The first exciting installment of my New York adventures…

…began at the Seattle airport, where odds had so far been in my favor of getting a seat… just any seat… on Monday night’s red-eye to JFK. I took my time getting through security and perused the magazine rack at the news stand. It’s a good thing there aren’t more exotic car magazines in print, otherwise I could have very well missed the flight altogether. Eventually I moseyed along to the train to terminal S, clearly the party terminal, from the huge plastic balloons and bright LED lights along the escalators on the way up to the foyer.

The airport was quiet at 10pm, but not completely desolate. After a quick stop into the restrooms, in attempt to kill even more time, I checked the monitors at gate S8. They were calling for passengers to check carry-on bags in anticipation of a completely full flight. I saw the upgrade list… 20 names… That didn’t bode well for my ambitious dreams of fame, fortune, and a reclining seat on a red-eye, but it meant some economy seats may be freed up. I was still third on the list, however. Just as Danielle promised, there I was, BAT/A, up on the monitor. Somehow that makes me feel important.

I had dressed up a bit, to make myself look business-class-worthy. As a frequent traveler, I generally have a few tricks up my sleeve for getting the seats that I want on a plane. Though I knew I would have to accept whatever seat was free as my name came to the top of the list, I politely waited in line at the gate and requested a window seat. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, after all. In reality, I was relying on all sorts of superstitious luck, and the kindness of strangers, who conveniently don’t get on a flight that is almost impossible to miss.

Second on the list… and the main cabin was already boarding. That’s alright… they were still calling names for upgrades. There’s still a chance, still a chance. For a split second I saw my name at the top of the list. There were only about 5 or 6 people yet to walk through the gate. It may have been me sitting there all alone, waiting for a chance to fly to MSP at 12:55am, with another stand-by card and a prayer. When it came down to it, I am fairly certain I managed to get on the plane because I had forgotten to bring my travel pillow. I texted this to Danielle as they called my name up to the desk.

When they handed me my seat assignment, 27F, I was fairly certain it was a window seat. Yes, a window seat. I love my life. Some people gamble, others take drugs, I get a high off of flying last-minute and getting fantastic seats on long flights. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be writing this blog.

We sailed through the clouds just as my eyes were focusing on the city-scape of Bellevue, and when we turned east and emerged above the cloud cover all I could see of my new home was the top of Mt Rainier. I went to the back to change my clothes and get myself ready to sleep. The clouds thinned out over the eastern part of the state, where I knew one day I would find future adventures. Interstate 90 is one of the few main highways I haven’t taken across the country, and I think it deserves a voyage one day, especially to Glacier National Park, and of course, North Dakota, the last of the 50 US states I will visit.

Time went quickly as I dozed in and out of fitful rest. Over Wisconsin… Pennsylvania… We arrived 20 minutes early to a red-orange sunrise and overcast skies. I changed out of my pajamas and took my time getting to the baggage claim. Since I was one of the last people on the plane I had to check my small roller bag, but contrary to normal New York mayhem, I really wasn’t in a hurry. I am now on the Long Island Rail Road, one stop from Farmingdale, excited to see my family and take a trip to the Atlantic Ocean. The adventure continues…

411 on San Francisco

I’ve always proclaimed that San Francisco is my favorite American city, and I still believe it is. However, I learned two very important things about San Francisco today:

1. It is not a driving, nor a biking city. It is a walking/metro city.

The public transportation (at least during the day) is fantastic. I’ve been to San Francisco a few times, twice for meetings of the American Society for Cell Biology, and been able to walk or hop on a quick bus or cable car to everywhere I’ve needed to go, within minutes. The distances between Fisherman’s Wharf and the financial district, as well as over to Little Tokyo, are pleasant jaunts, and the hills are good for the butt.

It’s not that the city isn’t bike-friendly, but most of the blocks are short and require frequent stops for traffic and pedestrians, or they have an incline rivaling some of the slopes that I ski in the winter.

2. San Francisco only has one season, and that season is autumn.

No wonder I fell in love with it immediately. Autumn is my favorite season, despite the fact that I have skipped over it for the last 3 years consecutively. Even in July the highs seem to be in the 60’s (Farenheit – regularly less than 20 Celsius). Everyone here dresses in sweaters and long pants in summer time (except for the guy down at the wharf who missed the memo). The cool and mildly humid air feels fantastic on the skin.

Pacific Coast Highway: The American Dream

Today I am spending the whole day driving the coast of California on Route 1, more popularly known as Pacific Coast Highway. I was able to live my own current dream of driving until the point I felt like stopping, then finding an inexpensive camp site and resting for the night. The state campsites along the coast are all booked out, especially since it’s the weekend, but I managed to find a county RV park in Oceano. The tent site was only $25 for the night.

I continued north after stopping for fuel this morning in the town of Grover Beach, just north of Pismo Dunes. The skies were extremely overcast all morning, and stayed cloudy through early afternoon as I drove north through the coastal towns. I finally managed to get myself a digital camera, though not the one I originally wanted, during a short stop in the suburbs of San Luis Obispo. A few exits up the highway I stopped in the downtown area and went for a short bike ride through the bike-friendly college town, both quaintly historical and trendy.

When I got back onto the highway I forgot that 101 and 1 separate and I went a few miles inland by accident. After getting back onto route 1 it wasn’t long before I stopped at Morro Bay, another scenic and touristy coastal town, which had a trolley system and a lot of kayak rental shops. There appeared to be some sort of crafts fair going on in one of the parks as I drove past. I parked near the embarcadero and ate my take-away BBQ pork salad from one of the restaurants in San Luis Obispo.

As I continued up the coast, past roadside beach areas and sleepy coastal communities, it reminded me of my drive up the east coast of New South Wales, from Sydney to Newcastle in Australia. The same peaceful marine ambiance hung in the air. Every few miles there was another small town and another strip of coastline filled with parked cars and children playing in the water, but no two beaches looked the same.

After I passed Hearst Castle, near San Simeon, the scenery soon changed as we drove up the cliffside and onto the section of road where all commuters, motorists, cyclists, and tourists alike, take their lives into the hands of everyone else traveling through. The two lane road is narrow, windy, and scarcely has room for two cars at a speed of 30mph to pass each other, let alone the random cyclist hiding around the corner, or tourist looking for a good view. With all the safety warnings and labels and disclaimers we’ve come to expect in modern dumbed-down society, driving, the most dangerous thing we do on a daily basis, is hardly foolproof.

This is why PCH is the American Dream, a highway built so that we could enjoy nature, by conquering a small part of it, setting up a roadway, despite most safety considerations, so we can spend the day driving along the coast line. We can stop every mile or so and look out into the ocean, and down the coast, looking off onto the cloud layer below us, and the waves crashing up upon the cliffs. We can ride bicycles and motorcycles, packed down with all the belongings we need for a long solo journey, or drive our RVs and minivans full of families, dogs and camping gear, or even our sports cars we take out for a luxurious Sunday stroll.

The road trip along the coast and across the country is a symbol of the American Dream. I ramble along California’s roadways listening to country music and thinking about my life and the world, and remember the lyrics of a song I heard as I was flipping through channels on the radio earlier today, “Every day is Independence Day.”

The End

Status

Emily and I arrived safely in Park City, Utah before 11pm MST, despite leaving Vegas after 12pm PST! We managed to avoid both heavy, damaging winds and snow storms. We ran into some snow cover on the roads in Cedar City, particularly chilly and annoying when we stopped at the supermarket and gas station. Emily drove three hours from Cedar City up to Salt Lake and I took over at the chain up area at the base of Parley’s. The air was chilly, but fresh and wholesome. 6,000 feet above sea level is where I belong!

Biking the Strip

Status

Emily and I successfully biked along the Las Vegas Strip tonight! The place to be was definitely the Venetian. Their outdoor Winter in Venice decorations include an outdoor ice skating rink with disco balls and music, a huge color-changing christmas tree and blue lights along the gondolas in the water. I thought I also saw an ice fairy when we cycled through the first time but she wasn’t there when we got back!

Winter in Vegas is cold! Tomorrow we return to Park City!