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June 10, 2012

POTD: Central Park in New York City

The above photo was taken in August 2008, when I met up with my dad and brother in New York City so that we could see a Yankee game before they tore down the old Yankee Stadium. (At the time, direct flights to New York from Los Angeles were quite a deal; I, of course, took the bus up from Washington, DC).

Located in the United States’ most densely populated city, Central Park is an oasis of greenery that offers a place for New Yorkers to relax and play on a warm summer’s weekend. Opened in 1857, the park has since served as a model for other North American cities to emulate, such as San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and Vancouver’s Stanley Park. The park receives approximately 37.5 millions visitors per year, making it the most visited urban park in the United States. Although the park isn’t the largest in the United States (a mere 843 acres compared to the 24,247 acres Franklin Mountains State Park located in El Paso, Texas), it is definitely the most beloved and famous of any American city park. Valued at $528,783,552,000, it is likely the most valuable park, real-estate wise, as well.

The park itself contains several artificial lakes and ponds, ice-skating rinks, a forest, running track, garden, playgrounds, playing fields for various sports. and the famous Central Park Zoo. An outdoor amphitheater is home to the popular “Shakespeare in the Park” summer festivals. Central Park is definitely a “must-visit” attraction while you’re visiting New York City, whether you are just strolling through the park, lounging on the grassy meadows, or joining the hordes of joggers for some exercise.

August 1, 2011

Selected thoughts from a 3000+ mile road trip across the United States

Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, Wyoming

We arrived in Seattle nearly two weeks ago and have settled into our apartment with the exception that most of our belongings are currently on a broken-down truck somewhere in South Dakota. Yeah, I’m kinda regretting using Allied Van Lines to move everything, but it’ll get here eventually.

Anyways, some some selected thoughts from our recent road trip:

– Before traveling through the South (ie, Kentucky) check the NASCAR schedule, or else you might find yourself stuck in traffic for hours.

– My uncle in Illinois still makes the greatest BBQ sauce in the world.

– Drivers in Red Bud, IL have no idea how stop signs work.

– There is a Churchill Museum in the middle of nowhere, Missouri. Random.

– Columbia, MO has some damn good beer (see Flat Branch Brewery)

– I was amazed at how many wineries there are in Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri. Now this may be the California chauvinist part of me speaking, but, seriously?!

– Everyone said that driving through Kansas is horrible. I can see where they are coming from as far as the monotony of the drive, but I actually thought it was quite relaxing. I love cruising along with some good music.

– I am pretty sure I was the only person driving through Kansas with a surfboard.

– Colorado is incredibly beautiful, especially during thunderstorms. I loved Denver and Fort Collins (the breweries definitely helped) and could definitely see myself living in Colorado. Thanks to Liz, Nick, and Wrigley for their hospitality.

– State troopers in Wyoming don’t care if you pass them at 85mph in a 65mph zone.

– Yellowstone is really that amazing and deserving of its reputation. Photos will be up shortly.

– Buffalo meat should be served in more restaurants.

– My Xterra is a bug killin’ machine.

– There are only two radio stations in Montana. One plays country music; the other plays nothing but “Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult.

– After driving for two weeks, I actually miss being on the road.

– I am very, very glad to be in Seattle while the rest of the country is experiencing a heat wave. Our temperatures here have been in the high 60s/low 70s.

– I can’t believe I actually left DC. This is truly a dream come true. I was actually shedding tears of joy as I sat in Beltway traffic on our way out of the metro area. It has been a long, strange, frustrating, and simultaneously wonderful decade in our nation’s capitol.

Oh, and it cost me $577 to drive across the country, just $30 shy of Cost2Drive’s prediction. Not bad.

July 4, 2011

POTD: Ferry to Ocracoke Island in the Outer Banks

During last September’s trip to the Outer Banks we traveled to Ocracoke Island, a remote island that can only be reached by ferry. We didn’t originally plan on going to Ocracoke, but rather made a last-minute decision that morning, when we arrived at the end of Hatteras Island. After a series of security questions, we were assigned a lane, and then watched in amazement as an army of SUVs, cars, trucks, and motorhomes (most piloted by cross-country travelers who were no doubt carrying a good motorhome insurance policy) drove onto the ferry. I couldn’t believe how many vehicles they managed to fit on such an unassuming ferry.

After a 40 minute ride across the Hatteras Inlet, we arrived at Ocracoke Island, which runs approximately 14 miles in length and features a small village (the village of Ocracoke, population 769) on the southern end. Ocracoke is rich in history, known as Blackbeard the Pirate’s favored hang-out, and is home to the oldest operating light station in North Carolina. Interestingly, a British cemetery is also located in the village. Ocracoke is the final resting place for four British sailors who were killed in 1942 when their ship was sunk by a German u-boat operating off the coast of North Carolina.

In addition to the history that can be found throughout Ocracoke, there are also plenty of activities to partake in. We had an excellent lunch at the Creekside Cafe and then headed to the harbor, where we rented a kayak from a surf shop. We spent the rest of our day kayaking near the banks and estuaries of the island.

If you are ever in the Outer Banks, definitely make the trek down to Ocracoke (the ferry is even free). Of all the places on the East Coast, the Outer Banks is definitely the one I will miss the most!

May 31, 2011

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine

Since I am leaving the Washington, DC area in less than two months, I’ve been trying to visit all the monuments/battlefields/historical sites that I never managed to see during my decade on the east coast. So, a few weeks ago I went to Fort McHenry in Baltimore. Fort McHenry is most well-known for its role in the War of 1812, when, on September 13, 1814, British ships bombarded the fort for 25 hours in an attempt to invade Baltimore. The British, however, failed to subdue the fort and were forced to withdraw. An American lawyer and amateur poet by the name of Francis Scott Key had witnessed the battle from a British ship, which he was visiting in order to negotiate the release of a captured American prisoner. He was so moved by the sight of the American flag flying above Fort McHenry on the morning of September 14 that he composed the poem “The Defence of Fort McHenry”. This poem would later be renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner” and eventually became America’s national anthem in 1931.

The lyrics:

O! say can you see by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
’Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust;”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

These aren’t the original cannons – they are Civil War era.


More photos here.

April 13, 2011

POTD: Brooklyn Bridge

Completed in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge spans the East River and connects the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Since its opening, the Bridge has become an iconic part of the New York City skyline.

This photo was taken in August 2008, when I met up with my dad and brother in New York City so that we could see a Yankee game before they tore down the old Yankee Stadium. We took a New York Harbor cruise that afforded us wonderful views of the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, and island of Manhattan. In a subsequent trip to New York City, my friends and I went to Brooklyn (my first time there) to partake in Russian/Georgian food and spend the day at a banya (Russian bath house) in Brighton Beach. With the Cyrillic signs adorning shop fronts and the smell of Russian pastries wafting through the air, I felt like I was back in Moscow.

For those of us who live in DC or other large metro areas on the East Coast, New York holidays are quite easy – you can catch some of the cheap Chinatown buses or take Amtrak (I personally prefer BoltBus). It’s just the hotel prices you have to worry about…

January 20, 2011


Outer Banks, North Carolina in September 2010 after the Labor Day rush. One of the few places on the East Coast that I will miss.

December 27, 2010

POTD: Atlas statue in front of Rockefeller Center in NYC

atlas statue in NYC

atlas statue in NYC

This is the Atlas statue outside Rockefeller Center in New York City. It was sculpted by Lee Lawrie and Rene Paul Chambellan and installed in its present location in 1937. The statue is 45 feet tall, and includes a 15-foot figure of the Ancient Greek Titan Atlas holding the heavens.

One of the great things about living in DC is that it is so close to some of the major cities on the East Coast, including New York. Short trips to New York from DC are quite easy. Flights to New York leave DC every hour, or you can catch some of the cheap Chinatown buses or take Amtrak (I personally prefer BoltBus). It’s a great place to spend a weekend when you just have to get out of DC.

December 21, 2010

POTD: I’m on a boat, on a boat in the OBX

Yeah, stupid joke. Just thought it was kind of amusing to see a boat being transported by boat. This is the Ocracoke-Hatteras ferry down in the Outer Banks, which we took during our September 2010 trip to the Outer Banks.

December 14, 2010

Shenandoah National Park & Skyline Drive

Every fall, thousands of Washingtonians hop in their cars and drive the two hours to Shenandoah National Park to view the colorful trees that envelope Skyline Drive, the 105 mile road that runs the entire length of the park. Most of these visitors rarely venture out of their cars, only stopping to snap the occasional photo, so the park’s trails remain relatively quiet. We arrived at the park one Saturday afternoon in October, and since we only had a few hours left until sunset, we settled on hiking the Snead Farm Trail, an easy 3.2 miles that loops through the forest and abandoned farmland. Below are some photos from the hike as well as Skyline Drive.

American pose 😉

The barn on Snead farm

More photos of Skyline Drive.

December 13, 2010

POTD: Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty – the iconic symbol of freedom that greeted millions of immigrants to their new home in the United States. Dedicated in 1886, the statue was a gift to the U.S. from the people of France. This photo was taken in August 2008, when I met up with my dad and brother in New York City so that we could see a Yankee game before they tore down the old Yankee Stadium. Holidays to New York from DC are quite easy – you can catch some of the cheap Chinatown buses or take Amtrak (I personally prefer BoltBus). It’s just the hotel prices you have to worry about…