Rockin & Rollin & Coastin

I think I laughed more in those days than in all my life before.   -C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

chicahio3People ask me how I travel so much, and honestly I don’t know: a couple months ago I was sitting in an ice cream shop in Nashville during a music festival (see previous post) and got a call from Elias asking if I wanted to go to Chicago after Haiti (see also) and visit my brother in Wisconsin and of course I couldn’t turn that down but didn’t know if I had the financial capabilities for such an adventure but then I discovered my parents were flying out to see my brother as well five days later so I just moved my flight upandflewfromOmahainsteadofMontana. (Now breathe.)

So that’s how I travel. (I still don’t know.)

Sometimes the pieces just fall into place.

One thing leading to another, networking, keeping in contact with friends, combining trips, living simply while on the road.

chicahio2Both halves of the trip encompassed museums, restaurants and general upper-Midwest-city exploration.

Chicago: Elias and I had three days to explore Chicago, and my brother Kevin and his girlfriend Megan joined us on the second and third days. The first night Elias and I stayed in the Wrigley Hostel, which I highly recommend: superb location near downtown, clean and spacious rooms, a plethora of bathrooms and reasonable prices. In the basement common area Elias and I made Dutch, Danish and Australian acquaintances over a pool table and a game of Jenga. The hostel was friendly, comfortable, and safe–I regret I only stayed one night!

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Sharks!

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Ugly-cute fish

Sites: We were hoping for the $8 entrance fee for the Shedd Aquarium which we saw online, but that only included the main floor. Granted, this area was expansive: exhibits showcased critters from all parts of the world. Those from the Amazon River were undoubtedly the ugliest (but, like, in a cute way. Mostly). However, the lower level housed whales, sharks, otters and a young dolphin. We also pet starfish and watched penguins play and swim. For a one-time event, the $35 ticket was worth it (student discounts were also offered).

We debated between the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art, but decided on the latter. The exhibits featured nine captivating videos by artist Keren Cytter which felt like rewatching old dreams; an interactive exhibit by Kris Martin in which we walked inside a tipped-over hot air balloon into another room; and my favorite, a handwritten lecture on music made almost entirely of questions, titled ‘Silence,’ and mounted on a wall page-by-page on yellow legal paper.

chicahio14Is it possible that I could go [on] monotonously asking questions forever? Would I have to know how many questions I was going to ask? Would I have to know how to count in order to ask questions? Do I have to know when to stop? Is this the one chance we have to be alive and ask a question? How long will we be able to be alive? Contemporary music is not the music of the future not the music of the past but simply music present with us: this moment, now. This now moment….That moment is always changing….We are thinking, I am talking and contemporary music is changing. Like life it changes. -Silence

chicahio9The four of us made our own art by capturing the moment ourselves, or sometimes capturing the moment of someone capturing the moment of someone capturing the moment of someone capturing the moment:

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Megan photographing the hot-air balloon; Kevin, her; Elias, Kevin’s ear; me, the whole hilarity.

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Back-of-the-head selfies are wildly popular right now. (We’re starting the trend.)

Of course we could not leave Chicago without spending some time on the lakefront with the Bean, which I recently learned is officially titled ‘Cloud Gate Sculpture.’ There was a symphony playing in Millennium Park, and a large crowd had gathered to listen, mostly lying on blankets on the lawn in front.

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Buckingham Fountain

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Cloud Gate at night

Friends: Anthony and his roadtripping buddies were passing through Chicago after a jaunt through Canada, and happened to be going to the Shedd Aquarium at the same time. My college roommate Hannah and her fiancé Joe were also passing through the city, so we chatted for a few minutes beneath the shadow of the Bean. The more I travel the more I cross paths with friends–and the more I realize this is probably setting the stage for more spontaneous encounters. (I travelled with both Anthony and Hannah when I went to Florida and Nashville in June.)

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Milwaukee City Hall

Milwaukee: Kevin lives north of Milwaukee, so Elias and I walked around downtown all day while he went to work. The Third Ward has plenty of coffee shops and boutiques to satisfy us college-students-ish. The paved lakefront sidewalk runs past the art museum and through a park with a statue of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Apparently he was a third-generation Milwaukean.

Sites: Mainly food, for us on this trip at least. The Milwaukee Waterfront Deli delivers sandwiches to the second floor with a tiny open elevator which was fun to watch. Also the deli has great sandwiches, but of course that takes second place to a dumbwaiter that goes around corners. This was my first visit to a classy Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery, and it was well worth the visit.

chicahio17We also paid a visit to the British-style John Hawks Pub, but we opted to sit on the deck next to the river to enjoy the view instead of going inside. On our final night in Milwaukee, Kevin took us to Safe House, an espionage-themed restaurant that requires a ‘password’ to access through an alleyway door! It was originally the meeting location for the Milwaukee Press Club, so I enjoyed the journalism as well as the espionage décor.

Riding surreys and bikes

Riding surreys and bikes

Muskegon: The ferry across Lake Michigan saved several hours of driving around the south side of the lake. We took the earliest boat so we could have two days at our destination. We rented surreys (two-person side-by-side bicycle carts) from The Depot and rode six miles back to the lake at Pere Marquette beach. The path followed a main road, but we only had to cross traffic twice. The beach was lovely, far nicer than I expected. The gigantic waves apparently provide some of the best surfing opportunities in the country, as well as a prime location for sailing, kiteboarding and other watersports.

chicahio19Sites: Muskegon’s two World War II museums were different than most: one was located inside a landing craft used on D-Day at Omaha beach and also in Sicily, and the other was, in part, a tour through submarine USS Silversides! The former museum included memorabilia from all of WWII, and a vast amount from D-Day itself, while the latter museum focused mostly on the history and mechanics of submarine warfare.

Sandusky: Ohio held the crowning moment of the trip, the day for which Mom and I have waited…for five years…to conquer every roller coaster at Cedar Point, the ‘Roller Coaster Capital of the World’! After succumbing to wind last May, we were ready for action. We planned two days into our stay instead of one, which was a good idea since high winds which force the coasters to close are common on the narrow peninsula. We finally made it to Millennium Force, voted the world’s best roller coaster several years in a row. We also rode Top Thrill Dragster, one of two strata coasters in the world (height drop of more than 400 feet), which reaches 120mph in 3.8 seconds during ascent.chicahio26 chicahio27

Sites: Cedar Point itself was incredible. As a die-hard Disneyland family, we keep high standards: but Cedar Point met all those standards in hospitality (friendly, clean, safe) and fun (attention to detail, creativity, enough thrill rides of varying degrees to keep a family occupied for days).

Hotel Breakers on Cedar Point property provides simple, stress-free access to the park. Additionally, HB guests receive one-hour early entry to the rides and access to several restaurants and bars located inside the hotel, pools, kiddie pools, hot tubs, and a beautiful beach facing Lake Erie to the east. In the mornings we rode the coasters before the wind kicked up, and in the afternoons we spent time enjoying the other perks of HB. Some beach activities included jet skis and parasailing for extra cost: we took advantage of the latter.

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Beginning my 900-foot ascent

Cleveland: Our last stop. We were flying out the following morning, so we had an afternoon to visit the city.

Sites: The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is a must-see. We spent five hours in the six-floor museum, watching scores of great videos of hundreds of musicians from the 1950s to the present. A musician or band must have recorded a song at least 25 years before consideration for the Hall of Fame. Five or six groups have been selected each year since the museum’s opening in 1986. Besides the videos, there is also an array of famous garments, guitars and handwritten lyrics. The travelling exhibit was dedicated to rock photographer Herb Ritts, who took many of the famous portraits of rock stars used for magazines, etc.

The Rock Hall is a well-organized museum if you proceed the correct way: but I admit that wasn’t easy. From the beginning when we couldn’t find the entrance to the parking garage from the street, to passing through the science museum to get to the Hall of Fame, to circling the lower level of the museum right to left (it was designed to be viewed left to right), the Hall could have spent a little more time on proper signage.chicahio22

Our final activity was a Cleveland Indians game that night. They were playing the Milwaukee Brewers, but I rooted for the Indians because…well, I admit, I’m worse than a fair-weather fan–with all the travelling I do I find it hard to choose allegiance to one team or another, so I just root for the home team, whoever that may be! Indians won, and we had a great time. PS – Barrio, across the street, has great late-night tacos (and tequila), if the stadium hot dogs leave something to be desired.

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Bird & butterfly sanctuary north of Chicago downtown

It’s not a true Jarvis vacation if every day isn’t jam-packed full of fun!

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Chicago

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Cruisin’: Unlikely Travel Buddies

“The very condition of having Friends is that we should want something else besides Friends….Friendship must be about something….Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow-travelers.” -C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves

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Departure from Miami

Our second ‘date’ was 10 days long and we didn’t kill each other… so I guess we should get married, right?!

Just kidding.

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Carnival Glory

When Randall informed me just before Christmas he had two free cruise tickets from winning Employee of the Year at his work in Plymouth, Massachusetts, I jumped at his offer. I knew I would have to miss a week of my last semester of undergrad… but senioritis was kicking in, and besides, when else might I have a chance at a free Caribbean cruise?

cruise5Randall and I had met in Italy: I was in Rome for the weekend, he was there for a week or so on vacation. We sat next to one another in St. Peter’s Basilica for mass that Sunday morning. After exploring Trestavere all evening together, we discovered that we enjoyed travelling and adventuring together–but when we parted we doubted we would ever see one another again. Until now!

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Two Carnival ships

I think it’s rare that someone would go out on a limb like Randall did, and ask someone he had met only once to spend 10 days with him–and I think it is equally rare that someone would accept that invitation. But we are both at times in our lives where we are willing, and able, to try most anything for an adventure. I am thankful God placed us in one another’s lives so we could take this crazy exploration together.

We had the time of our lives. Thank you, Randall, for all your hard work, and thank you for asking me to join you in this incredible experience.

The Amber Palace

The Amber Palace, on board the Glory

10 days, Jan. 30-Feb. 8: two overnights in Boston due to early/late flights into/out of Fort Lauderdale, two days travelling and boarding/debarking, two days solely on the beautiful Carnival Glory, and four days in the middle of the trip during which we debarked in Caribbean locations for 8-9 hours during the day.

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photobomb…

The ship was gigantic–it was a floating city. There were 12 decks, approx. 18 elevators, a giant casino, more than a half-dozen restaurants, a large theatre, a water slide, multiple bars and lounges, and constant live music and stand-up comedy in the evenings. Randall’s free tickets left nothing wanting–we ate every night in the Platinum Restaurant, a private balcony, and still left some ‘cruise cash’ left over for drinks during the week. We spent our two ship days lying in the sun on the deck, watching the Superbowl on a giant outdoor screen, soaking in live music and dance, and sitting in the hot tub and looking at the stars.

cruise9cruise10We spent a day on the island of Cozumel, Mexico, where we rented a moped and zipped the 43 miles around the island, stopping frequently to visit Mayan ruins and talk to the locals. We came upon a free tequila tasting–I’ve never been a fan of tequila before, but now that I’ve had the real Mexican stuff, there’s no going back.

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Giant lizard!

Cozumel

Cozumel

We stopped once to watch the water crashing on the rocks on the back side of the island. On the way back to the dock we stopped in the town for lunch and pina coladas…and literally got caught in the rain… /cue country song/

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Belize City

Belize City

In Belize City we wandered around the city, went to the Belizean History museum, walked up and down the river, and talked to the locals. Much of the city was dilapidated, but it made for some neat pictures of staircases and walls in the middle of overgrown lots.

Miss Jenny

Miss Jenny

I ate Belizean food for lunch from a woman named Miss Jenny who served up delicious meals outdoors under a tent. As all her friends gathered around the tent they spoke quickly in Creole and smiled at me sitting wide-eyed on a tiny plastic kids chair beneath Miss Jenny’s large pots of chicken, rices, collard greens, and plantains. We met Edward, who told us about Belizean government and festivals, and I had a beer with Alan, who used to be a diving fisherman. He knew everyone on the river.

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Fishing boats on the river in Belize City

Roatan

Roatan

In Honduras we stayed on the island of Roatan, and from there took a chairlift to a smaller island with a beautiful beach. We rented snorkel gear and explored the beautiful reefs just offshore. We saw an octopus and a few squid, in addition to a plethora of brightly-colored fishes and corals.

Chairlift over the jungle

Chairlift over the jungle in Roatan

Otherwise we just lay in the sun all day: I read a book, Randall napped. That hard worker deserved it.

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Grand Cayman Island

By the time we reached Grand Cayman Island we were exhausted from the previous days’ adventures, so we decided to go with a guided tour for the main part of the day. We took a bus through the island, mostly comprised of large stucco houses and American-looking neighborhoods of American stores (vastly different from anything we’d seen on land yet), and older women going for walks in white shorts and visors. We were driving on the left side of the road: I discovered later that the Cayman Islands are British territories.

A boat took us out to the middle of the large bay where an underwater ‘beach’ came to a plateau about waist-deep, and stingrays circled our feet. Following the lead of our tour guides, we kissed and hugged stingrays, then snorkeled around the reefs. Our tour guide was Tina, and she homeschooled her son CJ and took him on all her tours. He loved to participate in fishing competitions, and wanted to go to college in New England. Randall spent most of the time on the tour talking with them.

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Paul Revere statue outside Old North Church

Paul Revere statue outside Old North Church

I had a night in Boston before I had to leave the following morning, so Randall took me downtown to Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall, and Old North church. It was cold, and we were both missing the sun, but we had a great time seeing a bit of the old city and drinking Sam Adams in the Black Rose Tavern. It was a bit strange to be blistered all over with sunburns but also be chilled to the bone because I did not have sufficient jacket or shoes.

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Nailed it.

Midwest from above

Midwest from above

But it was worth it.