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A Monumental Bike Ride

Drive from Arlington into D.C. on 66 and you cross the Potomac with a grand view of the river, the Kennedy Center, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial off to the right. I’m prone to neck-craning anytime I’m near water, and with the added distraction of monuments, I become a danger to myself and others. After making this drive a few times, I realized I needed to get myself, sans car, to the bank of the river so I could do all the looking I wanted before I drove off the bridge. On Monday, I finally rode my bike down the Rock Creek Park Trail to the river. Apart from a few steep inclines and some bike-shaking cracks on the trail, it's an easy, pretty ride past the zoo, a par course, a cemetery, and the beginning of the C&O Towpath Trail. 

(L-R): Kennedy Center & trash, Theodore Roosevelt Island, Key Bridge & Georgetown.

(L-R): Kennedy Center & trash, Theodore Roosevelt Island, Key Bridge & Georgetown.

Once I got a good look at the Key Bridge and the river bend between the Georgetown Waterfront Park and the Kennedy Center (and all the trash that collects there), I kept biking. Since I haven’t been to the mall at all since moving here, I continued my bike ride past the Lincoln Memorial, then decided to find the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, which I’ve never seen. It’s on the Tidal Basin, and since I’d also never been there, I decided I should bike around it and get up close to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. From there, I closed my Tidal Basin loop, pausing to check the paddle boathouse schedule (Wednesday-Saturday this time of year) and stare at these tiny, iridescent fish flashing just below the water’s surface.  From there, I headed home, stopping at the par course pull-up bars to test my upper body strength. 

Fish not pictured.

Fish not pictured.


This bike ride made me realize that while my neighborhood has started to feel like home, I haven't yet grasped that these monuments are also part of home. I have to remind myself that it usually takes at least six months for me to get really comfortable with a place. In the meantime, the ride inspired a few more exploration goals:   

Visit Theodore Roosevelt Island.

Explore Lady Bird Johnson Park.

Follow the Rock Creek Park Trail all the way down to Hains Point, where the Potomac meets the Anacostia. 

New England Adventures

Friday marks two months of Northeast living, and I’m long overdue for an update. 

During our first few weeks here, we had visitors, which meant lots of exploration (plus, everything was new, so it at all felt like exploring). Some highlights: 

The Boston Common and Public Garden

We visited the park on our first Saturday in Boston, mainly so I could see the Make Way for Ducklings statue. I could only get these three at the end, because the rest of the ducks were covered in children. I get it — I loved this book growing up and have started buying it as a gift for all the new babies in my life. 

We went back the next Saturday to read in the grass. We ended up people-watching: four weddings, one quinceñera, and one squirrel biting a tourist who spent 10 minutes trying to feed it. 

The Ether Dome

In October 1846, William T.G. Morton performed the first public surgery with ether in what is now called the Ether Dome in Massachusetts General Hospital. The hospital holds meetings in the space, but if it's open, you can take the elevator to the fourth floor (right for Ether Dome, left for Diabetes) and look around. There’s a small museum behind the amphitheater, and there’s a mummy inside the amphitheater. 

His name is Padihershef.

His name is Padihershef.

If you wanted to take a themed walk, you could then go to the Public Garden, where they’ve built a monument to ether as well.

Walden Pond

Our trip to Walden Pond marked my most physical day in years. We biked roundtrip (40 miles, on the Minuteman Trail, through Lexington and Concord, past a pumpkin patch, the Louisa May Alcott Orchard house, and a biker taking selfies in front of huge sunflowers), and then I swam across the pond and back. Also — that’s a lake, not a pond.

It was cloudy the day we went, so I have only gloomy photos that don’t show the clear Walden waters. For a better idea, check out this collection from the Boston Globe


We took a fast ferry from Boston to Provincetown, and I learned that rough waters make me seasick. After some coffee and lunch, I felt better.

Leaving Boston on a clear day, headed for nausea.

Leaving Boston on a clear day, headed for nausea.

We rented bikes and biked to Race Point Beach in perfect weather. Because the first ferry captain announced that they expected worse waters on the way back to Boston, we bought Dramamine for the ride home. I think the ocean was calmer, but I slept the whole return trip. Then we ate hot chicken

Race Point Beach, Provincetown

Race Point Beach, Provincetown

In between these adventures, we spend our time in class, reading and writing at home, attending presentations hosted by the Nieman Foundation (and the Fellows), and trying noodle restaurants. I won’t lie. This is an amazing experience. I should be reminding myself that I am incredibly lucky every day; I’m averaging a few times a week. But I’ve developed a routine and find myself straying less frequently from the path connecting our apartment to campus. We have more visitors coming a few weeks — that should help us see something new. 

Photos from a September Louisville Jaunt

In September, I entered some photos into a competition sponsored by Preservation Louisville. I did not win, but I loved biking and driving around to the different buildings on their Top 10 Preservation Successes list. Here are some of my favorite shots from my jaunt about town.

Shawnee Library

Shawnee Library

I always like going new places, and there were several buildings on that list that I'd never seen (and still haven't -- after one long bike ride and a shorter drive, I abandoned the farther locations). The Shawnee Library was new to me. I loved the addition so much that I took most of my pictures from the back. Because it was Sunday morning, the library was closed, but I'll have to go back to see what it looks like inside. 

Union Station - TARC  

Union Station - TARC  

I've been inside Union Station before, and the inside is as beautiful as the exterior. There's also an original mule-drawn trolley inside. Definitely worth a visit. 

West Grocery & Liquor Store

West Grocery & Liquor Store

This building was not on the Preservation Success List, but I love this entrance and its sassy paint. 

Morning Glory galore

Morning Glory galore

Finally, I biked through an alley to get to one of the locations and found this wall of morning glory. I don't care if it's an invasive vine, this flower makes me happy. 

Have you found any gems in your home base lately? 

Just Exploring Venice Beach

Last week, Gabe had to attend exactly one day of a seminar in L.A., so I took off a few days to join him on an extended, though brief, California visit. Since we only had two non-travel, non-work days, we decided to skip trying to see the L.A. sites and just spend our time at the beach. I love ocean-swimming, and I blew off temperature warnings. I’ve been in the Gulf in December and a St. Louis pool in November, and I relish the shock of diving headfirst into cold water and swimming until my body acclimates.

But oh, man. The Pacific Ocean is COLD.

Me in my granny swimming suit, trying to work up the courage to get in the cold water.

Me in my granny swimming suit, trying to work up the courage to get in the cold water.

Between beach-time, we saw a bit of Venice by walking around our neighborhood, looking for food and drinks. We stayed a few blocks off Abbot Kinney, named the “Coolest Block in America” by GQ in its April issue. There is little I can reasonably afford on that street, apart from food, and even that’s pushing it ($9 juice?! You get to take the jar it’s served in with you, and it’s very good, but $9 juice…). Between this hipster strip and the beach, there is the lovely, wild California plant life taking over sidewalks, and there is the Venice Boardwalk, full of vendors, tourists, homeless people, and just… strangeness. My most memorable Venice Beach characters include the large, dreaded man in an oversized purple, plush top hat rapping about passers-by; a turbaned man rollerblading while playing electric guitar; and at least two different men singing their requests for money so they could buy marijuana and booze (to the tune of “Jingle Bell Rock”: “Jingle bell, jingle bell, help me get drunk.” Not even seasonably appropriate.) 

Hip bike in front of a hip store on the coolest block in America.

Hip bike in front of a hip store on the coolest block in America.

On Friday, we avoided the boardwalk mayhem by renting bikes from J’s Rentals. For $20 each, we got to keep our snazzy beach cruisers for the day (until 8 p.m.), allowing for a leisurely bike ride to Santa Monica. The madness of the boardwalk stops right around where the boardwalk ends, although it picks up again at the Santa Monica Pier. It’s mostly just tourists there, though. We biked up to the Annenberg Community Beach House, but turned around without visiting, opting for the ocean instead. What we really wanted was a Mai-Tai, but sadly, there are limited bar options right on the beach in Venice and what we saw of Santa Monica. You can find beer, wine, and champagne, but no real beach bar. And by real beach bar, I mean plastic chairs and wooden tables in the sand. There is none of that, and instead of Mai-Tais, we had ice cream in the shadow of a ferris wheel. That was good, too. It’s a bad idea to drink and go swimming in the ocean.

Just before we left to go home, a friend and her husband drove us around the Venice canals. Abbot Kinney, the guy who developed Venice, created it with the original in mind, so there are canals and homes squished in around them. You can walk along the water, and if you can get to that neighborhood without a car, do, as parking looked to be a nightmare.

Other Venice/L.A. randomness:
-the bus costs A DOLLAR

-motorcycles drive between lanes while the cars are stopped in highway traffic. This seems like a terrible and dangerous idea, motorcyclists

-LA likes Selena. I heard 3 Selena songs in less than 24 hours. This is good, because I like Selena, too

-Want an amazing donut? Drive out to Glendora and visit the Donut Man. Get the strawberry donut. I was skeptical. I was wrong (here’s a photo gallery from the LA Times)

-The most bizarre CVS I’ve ever seen:

I will have to get back to L.A., though, because I saw next to nothing of it. Seriously. Not even the Hollywood sign. But I got my beach on.

Louisville To Do List

I have a bad habit of living places and failing to visit major sights. I saved St. Louis’s Arch for the last half year of college and have yet to see Cahokia Mounds. While studying abroad in Geneva, I went to two museums and never set foot in the UN (although I did have lunch at the UNHCR). I planned for a year to bike from my village in Togo to nearby waterfalls in Benin, but never did it. And the major venues, restaurants and historical sights I missed in my six months in New Orleans make up a list too embarrassing to even begin listing.

I’ve been in Louisville for almost a year now and I’ve seen the Colonel’s grave, been to a Bats game, listened to live music at Waterfront Park, eaten at Proof on Main (and been in the men’s bathroom at 21C), bet on races at Churchill Downs (no Derby, though) and picked blueberries at Huber’s. Yet there are many places I keep thinking about that could easily get pushed aside and go the way of the Beninese waterfalls.

So as Gabe and I headed out of state for our 4th of July weekend, we made a list. I’ve added to it, taking some recommendations from Louisville Magazine’s “50 Things Every Louisvillian Should Do” (June 2010). We’ve since been to Frankfort and Lexington (despite the title of this post, the list includes things outside of Louisville).

Kentucky's capitol (in Frankfort, in case you forgot)

Kentucky's capitol (in Frankfort, in case you forgot)

These To Dos remain:

- at least one distillery tour. We’d like to do the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, but I think visiting at least one distillery is a more realistic goal.

Jefferson Memorial Forest

Bernheim Forest - I like hiking. I’ve done zero hiking since last August.

Falls of the Ohio – I’d like to see fossils, since I can’t see any falls.

Mammoth Cave - According to the website, this is the world’s longest known cave system. True story: I’ve never been in a cave. Ok, that’s not a true story, but I’ve never been in a cave like this.

- Cincinnati – they have Trader Joe’s there

- the Old Seelbach Bar – F. Scott Fitzgerald drank here and featured it in The Great Gatsby. Louisville Magazine says I’m supposed to drink a Manhattan here, but I think I’ll just have the bourbon on ice.

- both the First Friday Trolley Hop and the Frankfort Avenue Trolley Hop (beware of the trolley clang if you follow this link)

- a drag show at Connection

- bike at least part of the Louisville Loop, which will one day be a connected 100-mile trail

- the Muhammad Ali Center

- the Louisville Zoo -  I always have mixed feelings visiting zoos, but I’ll go to any city’s zoo at least once.

What else? The Kentucky State Fair is on the agenda for August, but am I missing something you love about the area (notice that “the area” can extend to Cincinnati)? And if any of my three readers are interested in helping an item on this list happen (Gabe has been to some places and is less interested in others), let me know. I plan on being here for a while yet, but that’s the same thing I said about the waterfalls.