Friday, August 31, 2012

Steel City and Amish Country

What's up Pittsburgh?

 Ohio flew by and Christopher and I were soon in Pennsylvania. Our number one goal that day was to visit Pittsburgh. My dad is originally from this area (and a huge Steeler’s fan) so we knew this city was a must-see on our itinerary.
If you have never been to Pittsburgh I will guarantee that you will get lost. Christopher likened the city and roads to the roller coaster at New York New York in Las Vegas. There are many one-way streets, several bridges, and countless hills that will put your transmission into overdrive. Christopher to say the least had a little too much fun navigating through the city. Once we were able to find parking we grabbed a Starbucks and wandered through the streets. Our meanderings took us across the river from the Pirates and Steeler's stadiums. I was a very good daughter and took numerous pictures.  The river area and bridges were much nicer than we expected. Several parks that are ideal for walking or biking have been built along the river. The river itself is quite blue and many kayakers were enjoying the pleasant weather. The city itself was also enjoyable to stroll through. Like Chicago, Pittsburgh is filled with a mixture of architecture. Several of these buildings have been renovated in the downtown area to accommodate modern restaurants and businesses. There is definitely not a lack of restaurants in Pittsburgh. We found everything from Irish to Indian. Overall I would highly recommend visiting Pittsburgh if you are ever in the area. It is a must-see destination for sports fans and is a city that truly grabbed the economic downturn by the horns.
Proof I was there
After our jaunt through Pittsburgh we drove through the Pennsylvania to our destination in West Chester. Pennsylvania is a truly gorgeous state. While we did not see much of the farmland typical in Northern Pennsylvania we were treated with some of the most breathtaking forests. The forests are very green and incredibly dense. It is not difficult to understand how Dutch and German folklore featuring fairies, witches and goblins lasted so long in the region.
 Our campsite itself was far from disappointing. The city of West Chester is located on the edges of the Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish countries. There we even a few Amish buggies crossing the streets, perfectly accustomed to gawking and modern traffic. The campsite was located in the hills of West Chester, next to the Brandywine River. Christopher and I had the opportunity of canoeing down the river at dusk. It was a magnificent experience.  The river is shallow and therefore perfect for inexperienced city girls such as myself. Ancient trees, fields of flowers, and a rickety railroad bordered the river. It was a quiet moment that was much treasured on our somewhat chaotic road trip.
Along the Brandywine
We are now on the last leg of the trip! Visit again for a glimpse into Philadelphia and almost all of the New England states!
P.S. We tried our first Philly cheesesteak which was pretty darn good.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Windy City and Rust Belt

Just gorgeous

 I apologize for being MIA these past few days. Our Internet while traveling was sporadic and unreliable making it rather difficult to post blogs (or more essential things like checking my school email.
On the fifth day of our trip Christopher and I breakfasted in Chicago! This was one of the places I was most eager to visit. We ate breakfast at The Yolk, a restaurant right off of Michigan Street. The food was delicious, especially the eggs and potatoes. The restaurant is about a block away from Lake Michigan and is across the street from a fantastic park with an amazing fountain and several modern sculptures. It is also only a few blocks away from iconic buildings such as the Sears Tower.  If you are ever in Chicago and need to break your fast, I would absolutely recommend visiting.  

I loved Chicago even though I saw very little of it. My favorite part of the city besides our amazing breakfast was the mixture of architecture throughout the city. Skyscrapers from the Gilded Age stood next to towers of modern finance.  Apartments from the Roaring 20’s bordered edifices reminiscent of the 1970’s. I loved that the city was a mishmash of multiple decades and cultures. My little taste of Chicago made me hungry to see and experience more in the future (hey, those eggs and potatoes were good, ok?)
After breakfast we drove through Indiana where we visited  the University of Notre Dame. Unfortunately the semester had not quite started yet so Christopher and I were unable to tour any of the buildings. I will say that the university is quite beautiful and the football stadium is gigantic. The whole town of Notre Dame is dedicated to supporting the school. Even the local fast food restaurants have walls dedicated to celebrating current and past Notre Dame athletes.
Notre Dame football field
Christopher and I soon entered the state of Ohio. We were pleasantly surprised by the state. While the western section consists mostly of very flat farmland, closer to Cleveland the land is covered in a beautiful forest. I am sure that part of the state will be lovely once the autumn kicks in.

And so ends Day Five. Tune in next time when we explore Pennsylvania (with particular attention to Pittsburgh!)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

East of the Mississippi

Christopher and I left Nebraska bright and early. We passed a little though Omaha which is a tiny city. Although we drove through the city at eight in the morning, the rush hour traffic was laughable compared to California traffic.
Omaha is on the edge of a river which borders Iowa.  Although I am a California city girl who is more familiar with malls than with farms and freeways more than dirt roads, I found Iowa completely enchanting. There were countless rolling hills of cornfields. There were gorgeous forests and flowing rivers. There were farmhouses and barns that would not have looked out of place one hundred years ago. It was a beautiful countryside I would love to explore a little more.
Christopher and I breakfasted late at a little diner in West Des Moines near several of the colleges. The diner was attached to a hotel and was made to resemble a 1950’s diner. There were pictures of musicians and records throughout the restaurant. Each booth had a theme and the waitress led us to the Beatles themed booth (completely unintentional I assure you).We also stopped for gas where the 89 gas was actually twenty cents cheaper than the 87 gas.  When we asked the attendant his response was “Because it’s Iowa”. The 89 gas actually has more ethanol in it which is readily available in Iowa because of all the cornfields.
We were soon on the road and decided to do a little antiquing in Davenport. I had heard much about antiquing in the Midwest and was eager to see if the rumors were true. Davenport is small city in Iowa next to the Mississippi River. Davenport was in word adorable. The buildings near the Mississippi are all from the turn-of-the-century and much of the original architecture has been preserved. The antique store we explored coincidentally was one the largest in the country and housed nearly 250,000 antiques. Christopher and I discovered many, many treasures. I was tempted to buy a globe from 1910 while Christopher nearly purchased a trombone from 1955 and euphonium.  Although we did not buy any of these finds, I did purchase my mom a little present!
I was probably a little too excited about crossing the Mississippi River. In history, literature and music the Mississippi River is what divides the East from the West. This was an exciting moment in our trip for this is when we truly entered the Eastern United States.  The Mississippi River, although we saw little, was magnificent. It was much larger than Christopher and I imagined, even at this Northern sliver.
After passing over the Mississippi, we were immediately in Illinois. Northern Illinois is quite similar to Iowa, however it is more industrialized. While Iowans seemed to prefer more old-fashioned methods of farming (or at least from what we could see), Illinois farmers appeared to prefer warehouses, railroads and factories. Our cabin was in Union, about an hour north from Chicago.  We decided to to tackle Chicago in the morning and stayed nearby our campsite. If you are ever in that part of Illinois, never, ever, EVER drive on Highway 20 if you can avoid it. Within a mile or two we dubbed it the “honey badger” highway. If you do not understand what I mean by this reference watch this video. Be warned that there is quite a bit of language.

Chicago here we come!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Jazz and Cornhuskers

Welcome to Fort Morgan, CO!...

...the childhood home of Glenn Miller *cue band*

Like the hobbits in The Lord of the Rings trilogy we continued to travel eastward today. There is an assumption across the nation that Colorado is filled with majestic, jagged peaks that brush the heavens. This was not so in eastern Colorado. Eastern Colorado was as flat as its neighbors Kansas and Nebraska.
While traveling across the Colorado farmlands, Christopher and I spotted the town of Fort Morgan. Fort Morgan was the childhood home of the renowned big band composer Glenn Miller. The town was adorable and we enjoyed dawdling in the museum and library. The museum had dinosaur bones from nearby excavations, Native American shoes and clothing, souvenirs from the American Civil War and battles against Plains Native Americans, objects from the local Free Mason headquarters, a timeline of Girl Scout uniforms and of course an exhibit dedicated to Glenn Miller. One of my favorite parts of the museum featured the history of German and Russian immigrants to Fort Morgan. Prior to the First World War, certain religious groups in Germany were persecuted and fled to Russia. When it became evident that they were not welcome in Russia either, the groups immigrated to the United States. The immigrant’s knowledge of wheat and sugar farming was of infinite use to the farmers in Colorado and they quickly became integrated into Eastern Colorado society. I have studied quite a bit of German history during my undergraduate work, so this part of the museum was fascinating to me. The curator was even kind enough to show me copies of the passports and other documents of the earliest immigrants.
The Nebraskan border soon followed our adventure in Fort Morgan. Christopher and I were not entirely pleased with our drive through Western Nebraska. The weather was poor, there was a lot of construction and the scenery was rather dull. We were even treated quite rudely by the local Nebraskans when we stopped for lunch.  The only kind person we met in the area was an Australian motorcyclist from California who seemed eager for conversation. I personally have preferred Eastern Nebraska where our campsite is currently located. Every few miles there is a large corn field, a classic white farmhouse and a picturesque, red barn. Eastern Nebraska is what people picture when they think of the Midwest.
Tune in tomorrow when we conquer Iowa, Illinois and especially Chicago!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Rocky Mountain High

The mist rolling over the hills in Utah
In the Rockies

A thick fog rolled over the mountain as Christopher and I left our campsite in Beaver, Utah this morning.  Our goal was to reach Denver by dinner, but nearly 600 miles lay before us.
The drive through Utah was relatively uneventful. The I-70 East lies just above Utah’s various national parks, so we were only able to catch glimpses of its canyons and mountains.  We stopped for lunch in Green River, Utah (which was neither green nor had a river) and found ourselves facing the Utah badlands. I am sorry if anyone reading this is from Utah or adores everything in Utah, but the badlands made me miss the Nevadan desert.  My silver car blended right in with the barren, grey wasteland.  A bird even decided it had suffered through too much of the badlands and flew into my car. Christopher and I were convinced we had murdered the only living thing in the badlands.   
We were quite relieved to reach the Colorado border after the death of our feathered friend. After a quick pit-stop in Grand Junction, we followed the Colorado River deep into Rocky Mountain Country.  The deeper we drove into the Rockies, the more mesmerized I became.  I loved the slopes, the trees, the rivers, the railroads. My only complaint was that it rained through most of our journey making it almost impossible for my tiny car to drive uphill and quite difficult to appreciate the mountains as much as I would have liked to.  
After a long, arduous drive through the rain we arrived on the outskirts of Denver. Because it was rather late in the day, we only had time to eat dinner at Cracker Barrel and find our cabin. One day I would enjoy the opportunity of exploring the city of Denver. I will say that the suburbs reminded me of a much flatter version of the eastern portion of Orange County and Corona with significantly more horses and less traffic.
Tomorrow begins our journey through the Midwest! Have you ever traveled through Utah or Colorado? If so what are your favorite bits? Good Night and Good Luck!
P.S. We saw at least seven hitchhikers throughout Colorado. Is this common?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

From Desert to Canyon to Country

The first leg of my road trip is complete! Four states were conquered today- California, Nevada, Arizona aaaaaand Utah! The Mojave Desert drive through California and to Las Vegas frankly was not that thrilling. This is partly because I have already endured this route numerous times before and partly because the road to Las Vegas is just plain dull.  Only someplace as exciting as Las Vegas could convince anyone that driving through a scorching hot, barren and dismal desert is something desirable. Christopher and I stopped at the In-N-Out in Las Vegas to say good-bye to the company I worked for and will miss dearly and then we were on our merry way through the Nevadan desert.
After getting rather lost in Mesquite, Nevada (not all of the streets lead to the freeway in case you were wondering) we saw several interesting canyons in Arizona. There was something strangely primitive about the formations. I was reminded of various disaster scenes from The Land Before Time and could picture Little Foot desperately searching for his tree stars. We soon passed the Utah state line and almost instantly began traveling through cattle country.
Christopher and I are currently stopped at a campsite in Beaver, a very small town about two hours northeast of St. George. Although we are only a few hundred miles from home, we have already encountered a little culture shock. The restaurant where we ate dinner served fried Oreos and cheese curds. While this is considered strange county fair food in California, these offerings are quite common in Utah. Country music is played in most businesses and many homes have a horse or two roaming on their property.  It is a very different world from our native Southern California.

Tune in tomorrow to see my adventures in Denver!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Happiest Place on Earth

Growing up in Orange County, Disneyland was a significant part of my life. Although I currently live about an hour away my family and I still use our annual passes to visit the park several times a year. There is so, so much I could say about Disneyland, but instead I think I will list my favorite things.

Favorite Rides: Indiana Jones, Big Thunder Mountain, The Haunted Mansion, The Matterhorn, Space Mountain, Star Tours, King Arthur’s Carousel, Winnie the Pooh and Pirates of the Caribbean

Favorite Places to Eat: Mint Julep Bar, Main Street Cone Shop, Rancho de Zocalo Restaurante, Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor, Carnation CafĂ© and  French Market Restaurant

Favorite Shops: Crystal Arts, The Mad Hatter, Silhouette Studio, Penny Arcade, Cristal d’ Orleans, Briar Patch, La Bat en Rogue, Heraldry Shoppe, and the Star Trader

One day I think I will do a post about little-known facts  and things to do in Disneyland, but this will do for now. Where are your favorite places to visit in Disneyland? 

P.S. I am sorry for my lack of pictures. Most of my Disneyland pictures have my many friends and family in them. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Thank You, John Muir!

Yosemite National Park is a California treasure. There is so much I could say about the park, however I would encourage you visit there and form your own opinions. While Bridal Veil Falls and Yosemite Falls are certainly magnificent, there are numerous other jewels hidden in the park. Do not be afraid to explore the lesser known trails (although do always keep safety in mind! I said lesser known trails, not trails you create through bushes of poison oak and bear dens). You never know what discovery you will make or what memories will stay with you long past your visit.Thank you John Muir for your efforts to preserve a place as beautiful as Yosemite!

Have you ever been to Yosemite National Park? If so, what was your favorite sight or trail?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Glamor, Ghosts, and Getaways: Coronado Island

I decided to whet your appetite this week with a few posts about my favorite places in Southern California.

The one place I adore in Southern California more than anywhere else is Coronado Island. This is my go-to beach, my getaway from the inland heat and the place where my wonderful fiancé Christopher proposed to me.

Coronado is unique in several respects. In order to get to the island you must drive across an incredibly tall and narrow bridge which is littered with suicide hotline posters. If the posters don’t deter you, you arrive on an island that is a mixture of turn-of-the-century glamor, WWII-era diners, modern restaurants and boutiques, and a beach-town living.

One of the must-sees is of course the gorgeous Hotel Del Coronado. The lobby, restaurants and shops scream of turn-of-the-century elegance. The hotel is supposedly haunted so keep an eye out for anyone looking rather transparent. You may even get a chance to ride the old-fashioned elevator if the lobby man is friendly (or if you pretend that you have a room upstairs). 

The beaches are fantastic. There is plenty of room to spread out, unlike so many other Southern Californian beaches. The water is a little cold, but always refreshing. My little brother and sister love climbing the rocks to search for hermit crabs, sea cucumbers and sand dollars.

If you decide to explore the island, I can offer many recommendations. There is a Coronado museum on Orange Street that offers a glimpse into the history of the island while the famous hotel was being built and during World War II. If you are looking for casual food Clayton’s Coffee is a fun 1950’s throw-back. Be prepared for delicious malts and spending a lot of quarters on their jukebox. If you prefer fine-dining away from the hotel, I would recommend Ristorante Primavera. This is the restaurant where Christopher proposed to me. It also happens to serve fantastic Italian food and wine (Nice work Christopher!)

Please forgive the length of this post! I know blogs are typically shorter, but I am quite passionate about Coronado Island. What places would you recommend visiting on the island?

Monday, August 13, 2012

An Introduction

Welcome to my blog, California Transplant! My name is Brittany and I am starting this blog to record my various adventures as I move from my native Southern California to Northern Maine. I will be attending graduate school in Maine to research American colonial history and therefore wanted to share my experiences with my family, friends, and potential new readers!

For those of you who know me well, you might ask, why have you not started a blog before? I love reading, writing, and sharing my opinions- a blog would be very natural for me, would it not? First, because I was working two jobs and a full-time undergraduate student, I honestly had no spare time to start a blog. Second, I think when blogging first became a sensation it had a rather poor reputation. Unless you were an absolutely brilliant writer, bloggers were stereotypically self-important, thick-rimmed glasses-wearing coffee house patrons who had nothing better to do than fill the Internet with their musings (Please note I have nothing against glasses. I wear them myself). Whether this was true or not, it was the stereotype, and one I wanted I to avoid. However as blogging became more popular and current blogs have come to reflect a variety of topics and personalities, I think it is high-time I started one myself. Yes, you read that correctly. I am being trendy and jumping on the band-wagon.

Once again, welcome to my blog! I look forward to posting in the future and hearing your comments. I promise to update you very soon. Until then- adieu!