Confessions

I do, in fact, know why there’s a big dent on the front of the Subaru.

I took three fiddleheads from a wildlife sanctuary and didn’t even eat them.

I snuck into your bathroom and dumped your homebrew down the drain.

I hoard the good pens.

I experimented with Republicanism and Libertarianism.

Yeah, I got your voicemail.

Some places just for you

Inevitably we hit that age where we look back at our past selves and wonder: what the hell was wrong with us? The unwarranted insecurities, the love of Ally McBeal, the misguided dating decisions. Oh, and the hair.

Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly, Arizona. See what I mean about the hair?

My past self wasn’t all terrible, though. She started a 401(k). She earned a masters degree without incurring student loans. She learned how cook with tofu.

Her number one accomplishment, however, was traveling solo. When you’re single and in your twenties, vacations are hard. You might be in a new place, without a circle of friends, or your friends might have different interests and budgets. But if you want to go somewhere and you’re lucky enough to have youth, time, and some extra money, it’s downright reckless to squander them for lack of a travel companion.

Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley, Utah

I mean, I didn’t have the cash to go to Tahiti or anything. But I’d never been West. Big skies, red rocks. Buffaloes maybe. Jagged mountains, not the inviting, rolling Appalachian hills. Cowboys?

Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley, Utah

So I saw Zion and Bryce. At the foot of the Rockies I watched baby elk play under a rainbow in a meadow full of wildflowers. I drove through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on deserted, unpaved roads and saw the sun set through Delicate Arch.

I slept in an iconic Wigwam on Route 66.

Wigwam Motel, Route 66

Wigwam Motel, Route 66

I drank Polygamy Porter in Utah, ate peppery breakfasts in Arizona, and found some famous Texas barbecue.

I’m married now, to the best of traveling partners, and every year we discover new places together. But I’m also proud to have my own personal roster of destinations, the spots and moments that are mine alone.

The Narrows at Zion

Showing one my places to Type E: the Narrows at Zion

2013: The Year in Random Pictures

2013 went by in a flash. These aren’t the pictures I would have picked to sum up the year; rather, these are the choices of a soulless Python script I wrote to procrastinate actually writing a blog post.

January

Raoul Wallenberg Tribute (NYC)

Raoul Wallenberg Tribute (NYC)

January’s subject is  more interesting than it looks. This monument in New York honors Raoul Wallenberg and sits across the street from the UN building. We had wandered up that way in hopes of a UN tour, but the building was closed. Instead we investigated these strange, black pillars and learned about a man who saved thousands of Jews in Hungary during World War II. I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t know about Wallenberg, his heroic actions, and his subsequent arrest and disappearance at the hands of the Soviets.

February

Bear Swamp

Bear Swamp

One of my favorite Western Mass outings is a trip to Ashfield, a small town in Franklin County. They don’t have cell service, but they do have Elmer’s, a great breakfast joint and grocery store (don’t judge Elmer’s by its website). After enjoying pancakes or maybe the Obamalette, you can hike around the area’s many trails – I’m especially fond of Bear Swamp. This excursion occurred shortly after the region was blessed with two feet of snow.

March

Westfield River, Below the Gorge

Westfield River, Below the Gorge

Towards the end of March, when snow from the previous month’s massive storm was finally beginning to recede in the valley, there was still plenty of the white stuff up in the hills. We made this guy on bank of the Westfield River, just below the Chesterfield Gorge.

April

Superwoman's baby shower

Superwoman’s baby shower

April was a month for babies! Type E and I drove to Pennsylvania to meet our new nephew and on the way stopped in New Jersey for Superwoman’s baby shower.

May

National Day of Civic Hacking

National Day of Civic Hacking

May was a blur. Much of the month was spent planning Hack for Western Mass, the first ever civic hackathon in Western Massachusetts. One of 95 nationwide events on the inaugural National Day of Civic Hacking, it was a great success, and I’m extremely proud of the community’s work to make it a reality. Eight of us organized, and about 100 people turned up to spend a weekend helping nine local nonprofits.

June

Jujuy Province, Argentina

Jujuy Province, Argentina

No photo could capture the chaos of June. It kicked off with Hack for Western Mass. Less than a week later, Type E and I went to Argentina to celebrate our fifth anniversary, and less than a week after that, we settled on a house and moved.

Frankly, I”m a little sad that out of hundreds of Argentina photos, the random picture picker came up with this one. It’s Painter’s Palette in Jujuy (hoo-hooey) Province, Argentina. Sadly, it was the worst possible time of day to take a picture, and for some reason I couldn’t be bothered to cross the street. Don’t be fooled—Northwestern Argentina is much more beautiful and vibrantly-colored than what you see here.

July

Mountain View Farm & Hangliders

Mountain View Farm & Hangliders

We switched CSAs this year and joined Mountain View Farm, close to our new home in Easthampton, MA. If you look closely at the sky, you’ll see small dots, which are actually hang gliders. There were at least eight that afternoon, swooping around Mt. Tom while we picked flowers and herbs below.

August

Eric and Chase

Type E and Poopy C

Despite our post-Argentina vow to NEVER TRAVEL AGAIN, we were away almost every weekend in August: New Jersey, Nazareth, Nantucket. The Jersey trip was to visit Type E’s dad after surgery, and my mom, brother, and sister-in-law drove over from Pennsylvania, crossing the mighty Delaware to give everyone some quality time with the newest member of the family. Right before this picture was taken, he pooped in his Phillies outfit, hence the Red Sox duds. A sign of things to come.

September

Franklin County Fair

Franklin County Fair

Fair season around here starts about two weeks before Labor Day and continues through September. Is there anything better than fair season? This year we decided to skip the Big E, and instead we hit the Cummington Fair and the Franklin County Fair, where Type E admired the award-winning garlic.

October

Mike's Maze

Mike’s Maze

It’s no secret that New England shines in the fall. At the advice of friends, we finally made it to Mike’s Maze – a corn maze with brainteasers, a petting zoo, a cafe, a camera obscura, and a potato cannon. You work through the rows of corn (this year cut in the shape of Salvador Dali), answering questions in hopes of winning a decorative gourd. If you’re really smart, you can win a free shot at the potato cannon. Sadly, we left empty-handed.

November

Resurrection

Resurrection

This here is a beer. A very good beer. One that I used to drink a lot of on Friday nights at Bridgid’s, a lifetime ago. Nice to swing through Philly and reunite with an old friend in a shiny new can.

December

Scott and Eric

Scott and Eric

December brought even more time in Philly to catch up with old friends from Wharton and MiNDTV, see the Wanamaker light show with Clair, go to the 1812 Productions holiday Vaudeville show, and visit the controversial and stunning Barnes Foundation. Oh, and eat some Ethiopian food because they don’t have that here.

Scott joined us for the pizza and art portion of the festivities. Otherwise known as Blankbaby, he’s the first blogging friend I met in real life, back in 2004 or so. Back then, Philly bloggers were a fairly small community. Scott met Marisa, now a famous food blogger, writer, and canner, and they eventually got married. I met Type E when he found me via the magic of Google. And so on.

May 2014 bring old friends, new friends, and more Western Mass discoveries. And maybe a little more Ethiopian food. Yeah, that would be good.

Salta to Cachi: June 12, 2013

Eventually we got out of Buenos Aires, spent just enough time in Salta to eat a few empanadas and pick up a car, and happily left the city behind. All respect to Type E for navigating not only the mean streets of Salta (no lights, no stop signs—just hold your breath and go) but the rambling road to Cachi.

The first of many road animals.

Pigs

Pigs

The road didn’t stay paved for long, and the car held up pretty well, all things considered. Luckily it was dry season.

Ruta 33: Salta to Cachi

Ruta 33: Salta to Cachi

In case it’s not obvious, this is a bad place to pass.

Do Not Pass!

Do Not Pass!

According to Google maps, it takes 3 1/2 hours to drive from Salta to Cachi. Do not believe that lie.

Ruta 33, Argentina

Ruta 33, Argentina

Closer to Cachi, the road is paved again, which doesn’t mean there aren’t any impediments. Cute impediments.

Sheep outside Cachi

Sheep outside Cachi

After a beautiful and somewhat terrifying afternoon on the road, we got to Cachi in time to begin our initiation into that most lovely of Salta products — Torrentés.

Cachi Plaza

Cachi Plaza

P.S. Should you ever find yourself traveling through Cachi, do yourself a favor and stay at El Cortijo. Have dinner there too.

A Day at Aeroparque Jorge Newbery, June 11, 2013

LAN

Sometimes your itinerary says you’re flying from Buenos Aires to Salta, but instead you spend the day at Aeroparque Jorge Newbery airport with a swarm of frantic, caffeinated Argentinians waving their arms and yelling.

Unbeknownst to all of us, the airport had, in fact, closed. Closing the airport involves putting up new times for all the flights about every 30 minutes, just to keep the dream alive. There’s no public address system, so sometimes a flight status changes from “delayed” to “see agent,” at which point a sacrificial agent is deployed from behind the safety of the ticket counter to answer the questions of whoever shouts the loudest.

By this point in the trip, we could say things in Spanish, like “please bring the check” and “where is the bathroom?” We could not say things like “what are the chances we’ll get out of here today?” and “please print documentation for our travel insurance.”

Sometimes, you meet a kind stranger — an American expat who lives in Salta and speaks wonderful Spanish. She braved the crowd surrounding the sacrificial agent and reported the following conversation:

“What time is the flight to Salta?”

“1:30″

“What time is the flight to Cordoba?”

“1:30″

“How about Mendoza?”

“1:30″

This conversation, she explained, translates to “there is no information.”

So, instead of flying to Salta, you end up back in downtown Buenos Aires, drinking beer, watching football, and swapping stories with one of those kindred spirits you meet on the road from time to time.

Buenos Aires, June 10, 2013

By day three, we were smarter about coffee. Order the Café Double to avoid a tiny cup.

Cafe Double at Plaza Dorrega

Cafe Double at Plaza Dorrega

Argentinians are proud of their pope:

Pope

Pope

Back in the day, the wealthy gathered at  the Teatro Colón’ and conducted business in the gold room. This sofa is where fathers negotiated dowries. They sat in the middle, and the potential couple-to-be sat on the ends, awaiting their fate.

Dowry Couch at Teatro Colon

Dowry Couch at Teatro Colon

Outdoor gym – great idea!

Peurto Madero Outdoor Gym

Peurto Madero Outdoor Gym

So glad to stumble upon this place. They serve tofu, and they serve it at 7:30 PM. This is not the normal state of affairs in Argentina.

Tofu!

Tofu!