Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!
Live the life you've imagined.
As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.
Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Food Time!

While I'm working on getting an official food blog up and running, here are photos of some recent culinary adventures had in Mac. (Note: this is not all one dinner, but dinners and lunches for about a week) Enjoy!

Dal & Naan
Mixture of lentils, garlic, and chilies simmered in vegetable broth. Stirred in some butter and seasonal greens when all liquid had been absorbed. Served over white rice with "naan" made from a basic pizza dough recipe rubbed in olive oil and garlic. (courtesy Amy)

Roasted beet salad with citrus glaze, cranberry chevre, and honey-lemon-riesling poached apples
We peeled and chopped the beets in a food processor. The glaze was a blend of grapefruit and lemon juice with olive oil, mustard powder, and herbs. Roasted them at low temp for a few minutes, poured over the dressing and let cool. Peeled, sliced and poached one apple in lemon juice and honey then finished with a late harvest Riesling. Plated with a cranberry chevre from Trader Joe's.

Black pepper & chocolate cookies

Pizzas with roasted pear, toasted walnut, Gorgonzola, and balsamic-Cabernet reduction
Basic pizza dough recipe (courtesy Amy). Toasted raw walnuts on the stove top and chopped. Sliced and tossed pear with olive oil, sage, rosemary, and fennel. Roasted in the oven just until browned. Flash baked formed crusts for three minutes, then topped with pear, walnut, and cheese before baking for another three minutes. Reduced 2 cups Cabernet Sauvignon with 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar and 8 tbsp sugar over low heat until thickens when cooled. Drizzled the reduction over pizzas.

Vanilla ice cream topped with dried figs and dried cherries, stewed in honey sauce
Fruit topping courtesy Lynnette - I believe she tried to reconstitute some chopped up dried figs in honey (not sure of additional liquid). Tossed in some dried cherries and let simmer. Cooled and spooned over vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Day 5: Finding the Oregon trail and arriving in utopia

So Thursday was my final day on the Oregon Trail. I left from Twin Falls, ID just after 8am mst and started my day by crossing Snake River Canyon on my way out of town - luckily the GPS did not entice me to turn off the cliff. What lay before me was probably the best day of all, nearly 600 miles of mountains, steep descents, pine forests, and rolling rivers.

Crossing the Idaho/Oregon border it just seems made a huge difference in the landscape of my surroundings. At every rest stop there are informational posts that give details about Lewis and Clark's voyage towards the sea, and the highway primarily follows what is deemed the Old Oregon Trail. Green forests line the highway, and the road wends it way across the state, eventually descending into the Columbia River Gorge which separates Oregon from Washington.

The Columbia River, the largest in the Pacific Northwest, flows from British Columbia, down to Portland, and out to th Pacific Ocean. It and the Willamette River are the two major waterways which converge between Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA. Driving along the Columbia presented some of the most magnificent views of the entire trip, including a fleeting glance at Mt. Hood National Forest, home to an actual volcano. Mount Hood (which is visible from nearly everywhere around Portland for mile and miles) is where the Timberline Lodge is located. Exterior shots of this historic building were used in Stanley Kubrick's film The Shining to represent the Overlook Hotel from Stephen King's novel.

Arriving in downtown Portland I quickly realized that the streets are all very well gridded and that there are also many one-way routes. It also is extremely important to remember that Portland is not a very car-friendly city, instead favoring bicyclists and pedestrians. The public transportation lines are ubiquitous though, and spending any time downtown shouldn't require a car. After a quick stop, I proceeded to make my way south to McMinnville, my final destination in the heart of wine country.

Making my way through several smaller towns, I passed from Multnomah to Yamhill county and arrived in McMinnville (or Mac) about an hour after leaving the bustle of the city (apparently there was a Ducks vs. Beavers game happening that I was unaware of, slowing traffic down a bit). On a side note, the Ducks won, and are headed to Pasadena to play the Ohio State Buckeyes (Ducks vs Bucks...) at the Rose Bowl. Ironic? Maybe.

Arriving in Mac after sunset I didn't have much of a sense as to how the town was laid out, but immediately took a liking to the more than adorable downtown area, lined with trees festooned in white holiday lights. Small restaurants, a book store, two coffee houses, a theatre, several wine related store fronts, an organic market, and varied other boutique shops. All with dark windows, but enticing enough that I couldn't wait for the chance to stroll down the main drag the next day. My friends Lynnette and Amy live just outside of downtown in a neighborhood called Hillsdale, and I arrived at their house just after 7pm pst.

We ha a lovely dinner (some of the best leftovers I've ever had - feta tarte, some squash gnocchi, and salad with an OR Pinot Noir of course. After talking for a while, I brought in some essentials for the night, saving the unpacking for the next day, and crashed in a very comfortable bed (high by bed standards, but even more enjoyed after a week of staying in motels!)

So here I am now in the Pacific North West. I've been busy since arriving and haven't even touched on all the things there are to do around here. I've got lots planned for getting myself established, people to meet, and places to visit. But today is the day for unpacking all of my things. Further adventures are sure to unravel I'm certain, and I'll be sure to post about as much as I can in the coming weeks and months.

For now, thank you to all of you for following me across the country while making my own Oregon Trail, and for all your warm comments.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Travel Update

I arrived in McMinnville, OR last night at around 8pm pst. I'll be making a detailed post about my last day of driving shortly. I enjoyed a delicious dinner with my new "host moms" Lynnette and Amy and immediately went to bed. At the very least I can tell you all that this place is everything and more than I'd ever imagined it to be. I'll have updates and photos later today.

Thanks for following me cross country!

<3 Ryan

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Day 4: Linda nearly does me in

So first allow me to warn everyone reading - when following directions via GPS do not get caught up in listening to the calming British woman. She is not your friend. No matter how insistent she is.

So en route to the nearest gas station/bathroom, I'm passing through the mountain town of Kemmerer, WY - founding place of everyone's favorite department store J.C. Penney. I see the sign welcoming me to the town, and a water tower, and a gravel road - which Linda ... that's the GPS lady's name ... demands that I turn down. Well, I realize I'm going to have to be quick or miss it (and I probably should have just held my bladder and missed it), so I veer off the highway, and just as I'm exiting realize my... I mean, Linda's... horrible error. What she believes is a road is actually just a gravel turn off that ends abruptly with a long slope down into the town. So in a moment of panic, but levelheadedness (isn't that always the case in situations of imenent danger?) I manage to make a u-turn of sorts and not back onto the road as this would have put me right in front of an oncoming semi. I did start down the hill, but managed to not get stuck or do any damage. Everything in the car having shifted decidedly to the left, I reorganized my affairs and merged back onto the freeway.

I must say, for having birthed such a great retail empire, Kemmerer is not worth dying for.

All this aside, the day started out much calmer, and much much colder. Around two to three inches of snow had fallen overnight in Laramie. The weather was reporting temperatures around 3F, but with wind chill it felt like -11F. I started up my car to let it warm up, packed up my things, and was on the road my 8 am mst or so. The nice thing about getting up on eastern time is that I get a really early start! And the snow was so soft and fluffy, so I can not complain.

I decided to be ambitious and map myself all the way to Boise, ID rather than stopping over in Utah. This decision actually diverted me all the way around Utah and I never crossed the border. The route took me off the main highway (I-80) and followed some smaller rural roads. Still a jaunting 75mph speed limit though, which I have to say makes me slightly nervous. I set the cruise control and just stay out of the way of any zealous 18-wheelers.
After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, and so on - have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear - what remains? Nature remains. Walt Whitman

I cruised along some pretty fantastic landscapes - mountains, rock formations, hills, and valleys. The road was much less linear today and turning some of the corners just lead to more and more natural beauty. I have to probably give huge credit to my grandparents for giving me such an appreciation of nature and the world around me. I've been lucky to see so many diverse geographies, but really don't think I would ever be bored just being outside. I've not made many stops along the way, but have to say the scenic beauty is just as good - and I can't wait to hit Oregon to see even more. It will be nice living in a place that has so much going for it outside of city life. Great vineyards, mountains, the ocean, massive forests, and even deserts!
Mountains inspire awe in any human person who has a soul. They remind us of our frailty, our unimportance, of the briefness of our span upon this earth. They touch the heavens, and sail serenely at an altitude beyond even the imaginings of a mere mortal. Elizabeth Aston

I didn't make it quite to Boise - I started getting a little tired about 100 miles east of there and decided to stop for the night in Twin Falls. It was dark when I came into town, but I saw many signs for the town's namesake attraction. I will have to see if I can find them before I leave in the morning.

Seeing as my route changed some, I believe I'll actually be making it to me destination by tomorrow afternoon. I'll be leaving around 8am mst and then I'll gain an hour once I hit the OR/ID state line. All in all I'll probably be passing through Portland by 5pm pacific time, and in McMinnville just shortly after that.

That said, I need to turn in, but I'll leave you with my favorite photo from the day.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Day 3: Plains, peaks, and valleys

It's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, my home town, out here on the edge of the prairie ... Where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking and all the children are above-average. Garrison Keillor
Today I spent my car time between Nebraska and Wyoming, leaving Grand Island this morning at around 10am cst. The owners of the Island Inn were very accommodating and friendly, hooking me up with a much needed plastic spoon for my morning oatmeal. Packed up the car, flipped on my GPS, and tuned into an episode of This American Life and I was on my way westward again.

Lots more corn. Lots more sky.

And tumbleweeds! The Tumbleweed Tally peaked at seven by the end of the afternoon. Not a very strong showing, but not bad.

Nebraska sits 2/3 in the central time zone with the rest running on mountain standard time. So a couple hours into my drive gained an hour on my day. Along the way you'll also find Buffalo Bill's Ranch and The Original Pony Express. Seemingly every exit has some attraction be it a museum, reenactment, historical monument, or other oddity of the prairie.

Edging along the Colorado border I started seeing signs of mountains on the horizon, bluish purple masses in the distance. Just after crossing the state line I pulled over to fill my tank. The sun had warmed the car and the left side of my face, so it was a huge surprise to get out and have the wind grab the car door out my hand. Biting cold that took no time at all to find its way under my shirt. I guess that's one of the drawbacks to living at higher elevations... with no trees... in December. On the up side, the fuel cost was back down in WY to around $2.31 a gallon. Less than I was paying even back home.

The flatness was quickly replaced though by slopes and outcroppings of stone. Snow started to appear on the sides of the road. My goal of getting out of Ohio before the snow came was mildly successful (I think it actually did flurry one night, but nothing that stuck). Now that I'm bordering the second longest mountain range in the world I'm okay about the snow. It's supposed to be cold in the mountains! Otherwise where would anyone ever ski?
Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So... get on your way. Dr. Seuss
My original plan was to stop in Cheyenne, WY but instead I continued on for a bit more and made it to Laramie - elevation 7,165ft. Approaching the city you'd never realize how quaint it is from the highway. Driving through downtown and around the campus at the University of Wyoming you see that there's really a lot going on (even in the cold). I'd like to come back some time during warmer weather when everything is green.
The snow itself is lonely or, if you prefer, self-sufficient. There is no other time when the whole world seems composed of one thing and one thing only. Joseph Wood Krutch
Tomorrow I'll be crossing Wyoming, going further into the Rocky's and making my way into Utah. Today I hit 1,000 miles!!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Day 2: Enjoying solitude on the prairie

Up this morning at 7am cst to put in a couple hours of work before hitting the road. With the sun coming up the views from my room were really great. It was bright and the skies were blue ... so much deceit. It was freezing outside, but I quickly got loaded up and on my way just around 9:30am.

Breakfast consisted of some water, a granola bar, and an apple. Back on I-80 my plan was to get to Lincoln, Nebraska this afternoon. According the the GPS I should have arrived around 3:30-4pm.

Iowa is a big state - I spent most of the day driving across some beautiful landscapes of rolling hills and blue skies. Farms dot the horizon here and there surrounded by masses of warm gold colored land.Corn in various stages of being cleared from the fields - mostly by cows. The landscapes and colors mirrored a lot of the time I spent walking in Spain. In a way this drive is somewhat like that trip. The solitude is incredibly relaxing.
What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great person is one who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. Ralph Waldo Emerson
There were some amusing moments along the way - I saw the world's largest truck stop, and comically didn't encounter the "aroma" of pig until passing Montezuma, IA. Talk about one town's revenge on highway drivers. Also, road signs for what I can only imagine is the happiest town in America - What Cheer, IA.

Also I was delighted to see dozens of wind turbines! I'd love to know wat kind of energy they produce and what that energy goes to. Apparently Iowa is the nation's hub of enegy production - maybe they're competing with Sweden? - and also has a high number of gas stations offering E85 fuels which are a blend of ethanol (up to 85%) and gasoline. It's also around $0.20 cheaper than regular gasoline here. I knew there was a good reason for all that corn!

Crossing over into Nebraska was a complete change over. I noticed the first confiers, and expect they'll just grow thicker from here on in. Apparently PayPal has a significant operation in Omaha (with those little frozen steaks!). The Union Pacific Railroad is also headquartered and commemorated just across the state line. Arriving in Omaha it was early, and by time I got to my planned stopping point of Lincoln, I decided I would drive a bit further.

Stopping for the afternoon I find myself in Grand Island, NE. I'm a little bit thrilled yet terrified that the Cornhusker Army Ammunition Plant is just a stone throw away. But hey, Grand Island is a three time recipient of the National Civic League's All-American City Award. I'm just not sure where the actual island is yet! According to their Wikipedia article German settlers moved from Davenport (where I left this morning!) to locate here. Spiffy.

Tomorrow it'll be on to Wyoming!
Water has an endless horizon; there is no limitation when you look out into the water. There's nothing to interfere with the mind's eye projecting itself as far as it can possibly imagine. I suppose it's the same way people in the Midwest feel about watching amber waves of grain or endless rows of cornfields. There is something exhilarating about it. Billy Joel