Category: Road Trip


National Geographic Traveler–a seriously great magazine–has an awesome blog, which I read very regularly. I’ve mentioned as much before and even before that. (I even participated in their first Peeps photo contest! My photo did not stand a chance against the fabulous competition. ‘Twas only a slightly tragic defeat.)

A few weeks ago, they launched a new magazine feature, “Ask a Park Ranger,” and invited questions on the blog.

Because (1) my husband and I had just eked out some time in September to finally have a real “summer” vacation, and because (2) Acadia National Park in Mount Desert, Maine was first on our planned route, and because (3) I love getting advice from experts, locals, and all-manner of opinionated souls, I shot off a question about a two-day itinerary.

And, today, Park Ranger Wanda Moran answered me.

Which is perfect, because we leave on Sunday. (So, we won’t be there for her suggested Night Sky Festival, but will stick that on the “sometime in the future” radar.) And, to express a worry that’s on my mind presently, I hope that Hurricane Earl won’t cause us (or them, mostly!) any trouble.

I am thrilled to have had my question answered. Thrilled to have such great and knowledgeable advice. And thrilled to get to see the first National Park east of the Mississippi!

Having my question answered on their official blog might just have been the added boost I needed to get my real work done, then get my camping preparations in gear. Yes, I think it was. 🙂

Expect to hear more about this and the other e-x-c-i-t-i-n-g stops on our trip.

Here’s a hint: There might be some of this beauty in our post-Acadia/pre-return future!

Don't knock it 'til you've tried it!

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The best-seller listed above, The Help, was recommended to me by my friend Kristina. It’s pretty popular presently. I think it’s a bit unfairly reviewed here, but the review provides enough information for you to get a sense of the story, if you don’t have the time or interest in reading it. I think, however, that you should read it. It took me a few chapters to get over the affected writing in the “voices” of the characters, but it turned out to be the characters that won me over.

A few of my recent trips have given me a better taste of the South than I believe I had previously. I was enchanted by New Orleans’s French Quarter while there for a conference this past November. To get to my 50th U.S. state before I turned 30, Charlie and I traveled down to Charleston, South Carolina for Easter weekend. Boy, the South sure can be grand. But I felt myself conflicted while appreciating the glory and architectural splendor of the South, all the while remembering the history of slavery that brought that kind of affluence, as well as the ongoing struggle to end the disparity between black and white. I didn’t live through the Civil War or the Civil Rights movement, but why did it still haunt me as I visited the pretty parts of southern cities with a long, checkered past?

(I don’t mean to sound ignorant of the great human evils inflicted in any geographical region, North or South or West or Midwest, Stateside or otherwise. A look at the history of any place is a look at triumphs mingled with errors and horrors.)

This book took a long stroll through the kind of questions I had: How might a white person have experienced the tumult of the Civil Rights Movement in the South? How might a black person have? Was there ever good mixed in with the pain?

As I read the book, I thought of Jestine’s Kitchen. It’s an extremely popular (and rightfully so) restaurant in Charleston, famous for its Southern cooking. The restaurant is named after Jestine Matthews, the long-time household cook of the restaurant owner (and the previous generation of that family).

The reflective front window of Jestine's Kitchen

You see, as the story goes, Jestine helped with at least two generations of the family, as she lived to be 112. The restaurant’s Facebook page has a summary of her story. And the food is so good. The fried green tomatoes, the sweet tea, the fried chicken … all delicious. We loved the desserts we tried, Pineapple Bread Pudding and the Coca-Cola Chocolate Cake.

Jestine's famous Coca-Cola Chocolate Cake

But when I learned about Jestine herself and about the apparent love and loyalty between her and her long-time employers, I just couldn’t figure out how a relationship of “unequals” in many ways, socio-economically and in the power structure of employer-employee, could seem (to a total outsider of course) to have been so loving and appreciative.

Of course, I’ll never know about Jestine, but the book The Help gives a variety of examples of the potential both for wickedness and for love, compassion, and bravery that humans possess.

Daily Radar: 07.15.10 – Intelligent Travel Blog.

See a predominant brand?

Lonely Planet is the guide I trust for travel. They’re not always right in their praise or nay-saying, but they’re good at finding what’s really worth seeing in a place, and ignoring what turns out to be only touristy hype.

My stack of travel guides in the photo to the left demonstrates that they’ve won my allegiance. I don’t know where my guides for Great Britain, Turkey, Austria, and the Czech and Slovak Republics are … but those are all Lonely Planet too! Quite the stash!

So, when I found out from the linked blog post above that Lonely Planet is posting suggested U.S. Road Trips to their Facebook page, I said, “Yes, please!”

(It’s item #2 of the Intelligent Travel Blog’s Daily Radar. I’ve found great things–like the International Food Festival in Prague, for instance–by subscribing to National Geographic Travel’s blog presence.)

I already looked through the New Jersey Diners road tripping guide and it makes me want to try some of them out. I mean, I’m a bit put out that they entirely scooted by MY AREA of New Jersey (Central Jersey) and just went for North Jersey and the Shore … but it’s also even more helpful that way, since I already know about most of the good diners around here. And if you want to know good diners in Central Jersey, you can just ask me. 🙂 A win for us and a win for Lonely Planet again, eh?

I am married to a New Mexican.

And in the interest of family harmony, I’ll just say, not all areas of New Mexico were created equal.

Parts are awesome: Santa Fe, Carlsbad Caverns, Ruidoso.

Other parts are not: ________. (I’ll keep the location names to myself! The same, of course, is true of just about anywhere. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m from one of the homelier parts of Idaho!)

Being in-law to New Mexicans, I’ve learned that not only do they serve some delicious food (Green Chiles!), but there are some dramatically beautiful sights. At the end of June, we took a last minute trip to New Mexico for a family funeral. It was a sad occasion, but a blessing to be with Charlie’s family.

The drives from Albuquerque to Ruidoso (a mountain town) and back, which bookended our trip, were a delightful bonus in a journey like this one. We saw thousands of blooming yucca plants on our way down to Ruidoso. It is awe-inspiring that beautiful stalks of delicate white blossoms have found a way to thrive in the desert.

In New Mexico, however, it’s not only the land–mountains, valleys, vegetation, and plains–that make for lovely scenery. The star attraction is the sky, which is wide and open.

Having lived on the East Coast for four full years now, I don’t see this kind of sky often. There are a lot of trees, a lot of buildings, and most of the land (around here in NJ) is relatively flat.

So, even though all of the above pictures were taken with an iPhone 3G (not the best photo quality) they represent the kind of awesome openness that a place like New Mexico provides.

Land of Enchantment, yes.