Eastern Road Trip 2010: Day Four

We woke day four in our discounted hotel for a quick pack-up before breakfast. As I finalized the game of Tetris that is our car one of my longest standing friends, Brent, wandered up to the car. Somehow we’ve managed to cross paths every few years since high school ended and we went our separate ways. Sadly, due to my inability to get in the night before our only opportunity to meet would be for a Cora’s breakfast. We, as always, caught up and learned a few new things, then sorrowfully discussed how we hadn’t had the chance to hit Pump House Brewery as planned. And then we realized that there was really nothing stopping us from doing it right then, after our eggs and bacon at Cora’s. So we did! I did the flight of Blueberry Ale, Cadian Ale, Fire Chief Red Ale, Scotch Ale, Special Old Bitter (SOB), Pail Ale, Muddy River Stout and their seasonal, Raspberry Weizen and we finished our re-group with a walk along Moncton’s waterfront. It was a handshake and we were off, next stop the Confederation Bridge to Charlottetown.

Ah, save for one pit stop. Adding 30 minutes or so to our route gave us two sweet options. One, the chance to hit the bridge via the Acadian Highway, cutting along the waterfront that provides an excellent view of PEI from the mainland. The road was rough but I found the view worthwhile. Second, the opportunity to swing through Shediac and see the World’s Largest Lobster. You can’t pass crap like that up when given the chance pop over to these guys. And so with a shot of my inappropriate beard groping of the statue we were off to Confederation Bridge.

Word to the wise, PEI has it right. Going over, free! One long, 13km free bridge ride over, but if you want to go home again, $42.50. Keep that in mind. We made our way over a bit later than expected (par for the course this trip) and texted our hosts to say we were heading straight to the restaurant. Mary selected The Gahan House, which I’d tried on my earlier trip in May. I’d recommended the fish and chips to her and she was ready to try them. I, again, took advantage of being in a brew pub to get a flight of Island Red Amber Ale, Sir John A’s Honey Wheat Ale, Coles Cream Ale, Harvest Gold Pale Ale, Iron Horse Dark Ale, Sydney Street Stout, 1772 India Pale Ale and a new Oyster White Ale seasonal, alongside the “recommended by Foursquare” Butter Chicken on Fries. All was well, and made moreso by meeting up with Chris and Crystal for the evening. We concluded our day with a trip to the same Irish pub Mary and I had found 12 years earlier on our first visit to Charlottetown, the Olde Dublin Pub, to enjoy a little Celtic music, a little more food, and some good conversation.

Eastern Road Trip 2010: Day Three

Day three would be our second day of largely just driving. Things got off to a rough start with a late sleep-in, tough when you have a schedule to keep to. Portland has been named the “Foodiest Small Town in America” by Bon Appetit, and at the same time a specific breakfast item – corned beef hash – at Hot Suppa! had been selected as the best breakfast item in town. So we headed off to try it out. It’s a tiny place and the corned beef hash was one of the best things I’ve ever had for breakfast. Unfortunately the food they surrounded it in was fairly pedestrian and unremarkable, but perhaps we simply arrived on an off day. We finished up, set the car up and headed off a few minutes to Freeport.

Freeport is best known as the home of LL Bean, and they have four variations of the store in their little town. On the way in is a 25-foot statue of an indian, and Mary seemed anxious to get her picture taken with it, as did I. Very touristy but it breaks up the road trips. :) In Freeport we found a fair bit of outlet-style shopping to check out, and ended up losing another hour and a half or so roaming the streets. By the time we hit the road it became clear we weren’t going to be hitting Moncton in time to meet Brent, nor were we likely to make it to Charlottetown for the night.

From here the goal was get to Moncton ASAP, and we decided to skip both the I95 and Highway 1 options to cut through the centre of Maine on Highway 9. It’s a relatively underused road that appeared to be popular with locals, and we tracked a New Brunswick car the entire time. Crossed at a new border crossing with just about nobody at it, so new it wasn’t even on the GPS. Got across with no problems to find 110kph speed limits that assisted us in ripping through Eastern Canada as well. We began calling 1-800 numbers for hotels to try and secure something in Moncton with no luck. The final decision was to just show up somewhere, and we randomly selected the Crowne Plaza in downtown Moncton. They had eight rooms left and reduced their price from $209 to $129, more than we’d hoped to pay but worth it being that Mary was anxious to sleep and not drive anymore. Once settling in with our stuff we hit St. James’ Gate to find they weren’t serving dinner any longer, thus relegating ourselves to a slice of local pizza back in the room. Oh well!

Eastern Road Trip 2010: Day One

Greetings! Fitting that I’ve gone from one trip to the next without any other posts at all, but alas, such is life. Yesterday we packed up the car and began the 5,000 road trip that will see us cross four states and five provinces en route to the end goal of Justin’s wedding. As usual, plans don’t always come together.

The goal was to make it from Toronto to Syracuse for lunch at Dinosaur BBQ, as featured on “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”, before getting to Boston in time to catch a concert by my favourite band, Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers. Alas, the unexpected world of border crossings. We stood idly by for over an hour at the Queenston-Lewiston crossing, thereby ending any chances of arriving in Boston early enough for the show.

The first stop happened as planned, albeit a bit later than usual lunch. Dinosaur BBQ came recommended by Adam Gertler on said Food Network show for their BBQ chicken. Mary did a chicken and rib combo with mashed potatoes and tomato and cucumber salad, I did the pulled pork and brisket combo with beans and chili. All of it was excellent. This is a huge place in the middle of an older, slightly industrial area of town that was absolutely packed even after 2pm in the afternoon. Food was served quickly and tasted great, highly recommended. I even managed a flight of odd beers: Middle Ages Ape Hangar Ale, Ithaca Cascazilla, Lake Placid Ubu Ale, and Middle Ages Wailing Wench. Ape Hangar was crap, the others were great.

After that it’s a long haul of boredom to the Boston area, trust me. Oddly I’m starting to recognize things after my many trips this way, and we pulled in near 8:30pm. We hit dinner at a place called nourish in Lexington, meant to be a restaurant of ethically sourced food that’s relatively natural, organic, etc.. Small issue that the service was horrible and the food was average, regardless of the restaurant being almost empty. I did enjoy a Peak Organic IPA before we hit the Fireside Bed & Breakfast in Lexington for the night. A very nice B&B with wireless internet (w00t!), air conditioned rooms, and a really friendly and helpful host. We caught a late night swim before retiring out of sheer exhaustion.

So this morning I lay out the goals:

  • My geek cred life goal of having my picture taken outside Kirkland House at Harvard, the dorm where Facebook was invented is primary
  • Securing the Yard Bird (Harvard) foursquare badge is second
  • Lunch at Mr Bartley’s Burger Cottage, which was closed on our first visit in 2006
  • Doughnut at Craigie on Main, as recommended by Food Network magazine
  • Delivering a rather large care package of Ontario beer to Josh Christie

Let’s see how many of these I can cross off today!

Circus Mexicus: Day 2

So I’m doing these out of order, sue me. I’m a busy man. *sucks straw*.

Phoenix stop on Diners, Drive-Ins and DivesSo the long awaited day 2. This would be our baseball day, one of the two real reasons behind the trip in the first place. Most of you likely know I seek a new MLB park to see a game in every year as part of my goal to see all of them before I head to the great beyond. This day would start with a trip into the downtown Phoenix area to fulfill another of my many travel-related hobbies: food at a stop from “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” This one would be Matt’s Big Breakfast, home of the breakfast pork chop and the “paid retail” thick-cut bacon. I need to tell you a couple things about this place, if your search for it brings you here. First, it’s very small. Because of this the lineup is very long. In fact, we’d wait over an hour outside for our chance to stride to the counter and try a breakfast. That said, once we finally arrived it didn’t disappoint. The wait staff were awesome and the food was delivered quickly and tasted great. And given the lineups the prices aren’t unreasonable, not sure I’d have the same constraint if I were in that position.

Former Toronto Blue Jay knuckleballerFrom there we did a slow tour through downtown, snapping pics of whatever we could find, until we finally found ourselves outside Chase Field. We signed on for a tour of the facilities, something I’ve actually never done at a ballpark before. Thinking about a tour of Chase Field? Comes highly recommended by yours truly. It was tons of fun to see the passion of the staff and the attention to detail by those who manage it. There’s a legitimate love not only of the Dbacks and the game, but of entertaining the fans that attend the games. Nothing but the field level itself seems off limits, up to and including press boxes and the dugout (where, yes, I satisfied the oft-discussed “basic ball shift” life list item). Here’s where things get fun.

So I hope I’m not blowing the secret if I note that a friend of OA, KP Wee, is currently involved in a book project surrounding former Toronto Blue Jays knuckleballer, Tom Candiotti. Tom is currently employed as a broadcaster for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and I had offered up mine and Paul’s services to KP earlier in the year should he require photos for the project. KP indicated that, indeed, photos could come in handy, and he put me in touch with Tom. I had been texting him throughout the day to ensure things were still on schedule, and indeed at 5pm Paul and I hit the lobby of Chase Field to meet and greet Tom and be escorted into the back halls of Chase to the press boxes. Paul, with his good photographic eye and solid equipment, proceeded to snap a large number of shots ranging from the press box to field level. The whole process took less than an hour, we shook hands with Tom and he was off to the night job whilst we took our seats to take in the Dbacks vs. Cardinals game.

Chase Field tamale.Sidenote on baseball stadiums: Rogers Centre sucks. Hard. Having now been to Fenway Park (2007), Progressive Field (2008), US Cellular Field (2009), Wrigley Field (2009) and Chase Field (2010) I have come to see exactly what makes a good park. Things like sightlines, seats, atmosphere, amenities, food and drink. Chase was happy to fill us in that each seat was redirected towards home plate, discussed their luxury “pool” box, HD screen, and even focused on foodservice things like fresh tamales, tequila on tap and craft beer pavilions. Enjoying a tamale with a bomber of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in my seat facing home plate only reinforces that Toronto, truly, doesn’t yet have a baseball stadium. It’d be nice to see it happen some day.


Circus Mexicus: Day 5

I know I’m late and I know I owe a day 2. I’m saving day 2 for last, it was the sweetest day. But skipping ahead to the end I’m clearly home and back at work so all things ended well. But for the sake of those contemplating Arizona/Mexico trips in the future I soldier on.

Day 5 was our road day, when we’d escape Rocky Point (sadly) and make our way to Tucson before closing off in Phoenix. Day 6 would be a full day of flying due to time changes and drives so this was effectively it. One item missing from my goals was an authentic huevos rancheros, a Mexican breakfast roughly consisting of fried corn tortillas under hard fried eggs and topped with plenty of a tomato and chile sauce on top. On the side, some beans and fresh tortillas. We decided to take a chance and stop at a breakfast place we’d seen the night before called Rosy’s, and inside were met with a largely Spanish speaking audience who seemed to be skeptical of the two gringos. I’m not sure their suspicion was alleviated at all by Paul’s efforts to have a side of margarita with his breakfast. That said, it was incredibly delicious and just what I’d hoped for before hitting the road.

The route home saw a few stops as I’m a big proponent of “make the journey as good as the destination”, but perhaps none more key than a roadside miniature chapel I’d found online before our trip. We stopped to snap some pictures of the chapel and the nearby surroundings, then headed inside to light a candle in memory of our catcus-loving/growing grandfather who passed away last year. It was a good moment and we were back off again. The trip over the border was relatively uneventful with, again, two dudes with guitars having spent a few days in Mexico apparently no cause for concern to any border officials, be they Mexican, Canadian or American. Once across it was off to Why, Arizona where the trip shifted to an eastward haul along the border to Tucson.

So here’s the thing – Arizona has an illegal immigration problem. And by immigration I mean they just run in and hide amongst the cacti. Without getting political (because Lord knows I don’t like to do that) I’m going to say those of you whining about Arizona’s new laws likely have no idea what you’re talking about, and all I’ll do is encourage you to actually do some research. Suffice it to say we crossed paths with no fewer than 25 border guards during the couple hour drive, they were everywhere. Now, arriving in Tucson our first stop was 1702 Pizza + Beer, a place known for oversized slices of pizza and 52 awesome draught taps. They did not disappoint. I had a simple cheese slice with chorizo and, as driver, three samples of some awesome stouts: Dogfish Head Chicory Stout, Avery The Czar and Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence. Paul, bless his soul, did his best to conquer a well-packed calzone with a Titan IPA followed by samples of Dogfish Head Burton Baton, Coronado Idiot IPA and Green Flash Imperial IPA. While he was unable to finish the beast of a calzone he was congratulated by the owner of the establishment for having come about as far as anyone ever has, quite the accomplishment.

From there it was to the PIMA Air & Space Museum, who had assured me on their Facebook page they toured until 4pm. However, we arrived at 3:30 to be told there were no more tours. Bit of a tick-off. We drove around the boneyard and got a chance to see some of the planes, but we’d really hoped to see it. It was back to Phoenix from there to stop at the Heart Attack Grill for a milkshake.

We sat down, the “nurse” threw hospital gowns on us and asked us for our order. We ordered shakes and were told they don’t serve shakes. Yet another lying website! So we went for the gusto and ordered Bypass Burgers; the single version, despite the profane taunting of our “nurse”. For those unaware the only things they serve here are 1/2-lb burgers in increments up to four patties, bottomless fries fried in trans fat, colas, beers and unfiltered cigarettes. Now, to be clear, these burgers are disgusting. They’re fatty and nasty and the bun was smeared with something oily and upsetting. We ate, we got a pic, and we got out with only one additional stop to meet a new friend for a drink on the way.

Which, thusly, ended day 5 and, effectively the trip. Stay tuned, however, for the story of day 2…