50 State Quest: Number 45, North Dakota

One of the best parts of traveling in the US is to experience the wide open spaces. In the past year I have been to several Midwestern and Plains states for the first time as part of my 50 state quest. Places are so flat that the horizon is much further away than it is in the east. Rolling farmland just extends out further than you can see.

On Sunday, after arriving in Minnesota, I drove a couple of hundred miles to Fargo, North Dakota. There was plenty of snow on the ground in northwestern Minnesota, as you would expect this time of year. At times it looked like a barren lunar landscape, which was really hard to photograph at 70 miles an hour. Red barns, silos and graineries are also hard to shoot at that speed, plus the GPS unit on the dash kept photobombing me. At other times it was so flat and empty that it looked like a snow-covered, frozen lake that goes on and on into the distance. Seeing frozen lakes, complete with ice fishers, put that image in my head.

Categorized as Travel

Nobody Walks in LA

Earlier this month I traveled to Los Angeles. When I travel to urban areas I never even consider renting a car. I don’t like to hassle with driving directions from the airport, even with a rented GPS, or the parking in a city. If a city is not walkable I’ll just take a cab. Even though I have not spent much time in LA, I know that it is not a walkable city. Everyone drives.

Categorized as Travel

My Year of Travel: 2012


I started 2012 with a trip to Las Vegas and ended with a trip to Fort Myers Florida. In between I traveled over 82,000 miles to 36 different cities over 126 days. That’s about one-third of the year on the road and 86% of it was business travel. That’s not to say that I didn’t have a chance to see the sights in London and Paris, but they were primarily business trips.

In the state race, I picked up 3 more US states that I have never been to. This brings my total to 43. It has been six years since I have gotten a new state, and this year I got three new ones.

NEBRASKA: Carhenge, Alliance

NEBRASKA: Carhenge (detail), Alliance

Surf Ballroom
IOWA: Surf Ballroom, Clear Lake

INDIANA: Welcome Sign

I also called this the year of the view from the top of things. I went to the top of four man-made structures and looked out over the city. Each one provided a new view for me, as I had never been on top of any of them before.

St Paul’s Cathedral, London

St Paul’s Cathedral, London
View from Golden Gallery, Height: 279 Feet

Space Needle, Seattle

Space Needle, Seattle
View from Observation Deck, Height: 520 Feet

Eiffel Tower, Paris

Eiffel Tower, Paris
View from Observation Deck, Height: 916 Feet
Note the shadow of the tower

John Hancock Building, Chicago
View from Observation Deck, Height: 1000 Feet

And I’m getting ready for travel in 2013 with a few trips planned for this month, including one to another new state. Watch this space for more.

Categorized as Travel

My Year in Travel: 2011

I’ve had a busy travel year, between speaking engagements, conference attendance and a new job. I traveled to many parts of North Carolina, 9 different states, including California 3 times, Texas 3 times, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida and Wisconsin, as well as Washington DC. I also visited 3 different cities in 2 Canadian provinces. Below are some photo highlights. There seems to be a preponderance of water and lighthouses.

Capitol Dome, Austin TX

The perfect place for a brat sampler, Milwaukee WI

The US Capitol, Washington DC

Abraham Lincoln, Washington DC

George Washington in Bruins Jersey before the Stanley Cup victory, Boston MA

Transamerica Building, San Francisco CA

Waterfront, Halifax NS

Lighthouse, Saint John NB

Lighthouse, Fredericton NB

Riverwalk, San Antonio TX

Terraces, Los Angeles CA

City Hall, Los Angeles CA

Market Street, Philadelphia PA

Reflection, Estero FL

Sunrise on Waterfront, Halifax NS

Bird and the Bay Bridge, San Francisco CA

Napa Valley Wine Train, Napa CA

Bodie Island Lighthouse, Outer Banks NC

Categorized as Travel

Dinner at Uchiko. Even Better than Uchi

Tonight we ate at Uchiko, a Japanese Farmhouse Dining restaurant. It is the alternate version of Uchi, which is a more traditional Japanese sushi restaurant. Kipp and I went without a reservation, and were seated immediately at the sushi bar. This meant that during our meal, we interacted with one of the sushi chefs who prepared some of our food.

Here is my tweet from after we finished. Photos and descriptions of the food follow.

buri – winter yellowtail mint, green tea oil, garlic chips

sunchoke dashi spring vegetables, arugula, noble sherry, bottarga

baby artichokes lardo, thyme, saffron

yokai berry atlantic salmon, dinosaur kale, asian pear, yuzu

countryside farms rabbit nam thai chili, mustard, fennel, breakfast radish

sushi sampler

pork jowl brussel sprout kimchee, preserved lemon crème fraiche, romaine

bbq scallop sashimi kaffir lime, cilantro stems, breakfast radish

jar jar duck countryside farms duck, kumquat confit, rosemary smoke

fried milk choco­late milk, toasted milk, iced milk sherbet

Categorized as Travel

Dinner at Uchi

Last year while at the South By Southwest Interactive (SXSW) Festival in Austin Kipp Bodnar, Dave Thomas and I had dinner at Uchi. It was an amazing meal, and Kipp and I are definitely going back this year. I had an annotated menu that listed what we ate, and I figured this was the best way to make sure we had the list when we went back.

The meal was made up of a series of small plates, and we each selected a number of plates. Our server determined the order of the food, which really made the meal spectacular.

uchiviche salmon, striped bass, vine-ripened tomatoes, yellow bell peppers, garlic and cilantro

maguro sashimi and goat cheese with cracked pepper, fuji apple and pumpkin seed oil

brie ringo tempura fried brie with apple chutney and crisps

hot rock “sear it yourself” wagyu beef with ponzu sauce on a japanese river rock

tomato katsu panko-fried green tomatoes

kona kanpachi pacific amberjack sashimi with crispy koshi hikari rice, ringger farm egg and sweet soy broth

bacon sen roasted pork belly with granny smith apple puree, cilantro, sherry vinegar and shaved fennel

ao ebi poached blue prawns, lavender, spring truffle and kinshu mandarin

We also tried all four desserts that were available, but the only one listed on the menu pages I have was from the nightly specials: okashi corn sorbet, polenta custard, corn soil and lemon gel

Categorized as Travel

A Vacation in New York City

View of New York
Normally the kids and I take our summer vacation and go to the beach. Since the coast of North Carolina is only a couple hours away, this is a convenient place to spend a week as the summer winds down. This year, they asked to go to New York City instead. We had been there a few years ago, but only for about two days. As my son said, We didn’t get to do much and there’s so much to do. After some convincing, I agreed and we booked our trip.

It was fun acting like a tourist in a city I have lived in, and taking the kids to all the popular spots. We stayed on the Eastside in the Beekman Tower Hotel, near the UN building. Not only am I an Eastside person, but it was nice to be in a non-touristy, residential area. We stayed near Times Square before and there was just too much hustle and bustle of tourists. The best way to see the city is to get a City Pass, which gives you access to six attractions, and in many cases lets you bypass the lines. Below are the highlights of our trip.

Museum of Modern Art
Grace and Water Lilies
This was the first of several museums we went to, but if you take a very laid back approach to museums, kids will enjoy them. We focused on pieces that the kids were familiar with, like Monet’s Water Lilies (above) and Van Gogh’s Starry Night. These museums are just too big to stop at every work, read the card and go to the next one. Even for adults. I focused on these important pieces and the reality of what you can see by standing in front of them. Things like how much of Starry Night is created by the brushstrokes and the layers of paint. This is never really conveyed in a book.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Grace and Peter at Temple of Dendur
Grace is a big fan of the Percy Jackson series of books, which brings Greek mythology into the modern day. The museum had a great guide highlighting select pieces based on the characters in the book. The first book also begins in the museum itself. Grace enjoyed finding these works with her special guide. We also enjoyed the Knights in Armor (one of my favorites as a kid) and the Egyptian artifacts, including the Temple of Dendur.

Statue of Liberty
Grace and Peter at Statue of Liberty
A boat ride in New York Harbor on a hot sunny day led us to the famous statue. We learned a little bit about its history from a Park Ranger and did not go inside, as all tours must be pre-booked and were not included with our passes. After a few pictures, we were back on the boat.

Ellis Island
Peter and Grace at Ellis Island
The Immigration Museum on Ellis Island was more interesting to me, than to the kids, but we did talk about all the people who came through Ellis Island. We talked about the strength it must have taken to pack all your belongings and travel across the ocean to a place where you don’t speak the language. While I have family members whose name was changed when they arrived in the US, I don’t know any specific relatives who came through Ellis Island.

Mac N Cheese
Grace at S'mac
We went to an all Mac N Cheese restaurant called S’mac and Grace reviewed it for her web show.

Museum of Natural History
Grace and Peter on the Half Shell
No kid trip to New York is complete without a stop at the Museum of Natural History. We used their iPhone app to find the big Blue Whale and the Dinosaurs. While some things have not changed since I was a kind, the Hayden Planetarium and Space Center are brand new. The planetarium (which is the device that projects the stars, not the curved dome) is long gone and replaced with a digital projection system.

Empire State Building
Grace and Peter over New York
And we ended our trip with a view of the city from the 86th floor observatory at the Empire State Building.

We also met my sister for dinner, which was great since the kids haven’t seen her since the last time we were in New York three years ago. Here are more photos from the trip.

Categorized as Travel

A Trip to NYC

I recently traveled to New York City to speak at a conference and had a full day to wander around and see the sights. It turned out that I only took photos with my iphone, so they were already online, but I will post a few notable ones here.

One of my favorite NYC buildings
This is one of my favorite buildings in New York, the Flatiron Building. It sits where 23rd Street, 5th Avenue and Broadway comes together, creating a small triangle of real estate. One of the things that has changed in the area is the creation of public spaces where Broadway used to have three lanes of traffic. It now has one and there is a place with tables and umbrellas, planters and large rocks. It is nice spot to sit and rest after a long walk. New York is a walking city and they really seem to understand creating public spaces for sitting.

In the shadow of the Flatiron Building is Madison Square Park. Years ago, this was run down, dirty park, largely populated with homeless and drunks. Today it features a large grassy meadow with public sculptures, a playground, a dog park, tables and chairs for sitting (in addition to the ubiquitous park benches), and the best part of all, one of NYC’s trendiest burger place, The Shake Shack. While I did not eat anything at the Shake Shack, I did wait in line for a little while. Even their website acknowledges the line by displaying a live web cam view of it.


In addition to lots of walking around, I also dropped by my old agency to say hi. I worked there nearly 20 years ago, but as holiday cards transitioned to LinkedIn, I have remained in touch with my old boss, who is one of the agency principals now. It wasn’t that hard for her and her brother to wrestle control from their dad and uncle as they advanced in years.

On a visit to my old agency in NYC, saw my old desk
But it was odd to see my old desk. I had to take a picture of it of course.

So after my friend, Kipp, arrived, we picked a place for dinner and started walking. One of the advantages of using review sites in NYC is there are lots of reviews. Just pick a type of food (Italian) and a neighborhood (Greenwich Village), and check out the results with the best ratings. We chose a place called Lupa Osteria Romana. It was opened by Mario Batali and crew in 1999, and is modeled after a traditional Roman trattoria, providing classic Roman cuisine in a festive atmosphere. Since we did not go to their website before eating there, I just discover this. I also found they are on Twitter and Facebook, but not very engaged. I had a raw tuna “cooked in vinegar” seviche-style with cannelini beans and red onion. We shared a fettuccine dish with chicken and pork. I had Saltimbocca for my entree. Everything was delicious, but the best dish was the crispy duck “agrodolce” that Kipp had. It had been prepared confite style, and then roasted. It was super tender and very tasty. I also had a glass of the Vermentino Colli di Luni Giacomelli 2006. It was drier than the NC one we reviewed from Raffaldini.

Cannoli Girl
Next it was off to Little Italy to find cannoli. That night the Feast of San Genero was going on, but we still managed to find Ferrara’s. We got regular and chocolate covered cannoli. It was a long walk back to our hotel, but it was a nice night, so it wasn’t too bad. Well, except I was really wiped out from all the walking.

The next day was the conference and a flight home. We walked around some, but no notable sites or pictures. Here’s a link to all my photos on Flickr.

Categorized as Travel

Spring Break

For the kids’ Spring Break this year, we went to Florida and had a jam-packed week. We were busy, but with plenty of time to relax. Our schedule included swimming, a kids museum called the Imaginarium, an amusement park, a little bit of shopping, a boat ride to the beach, mini-golf, lots of eating, Passover Seder and the kids’ favorite activity: riding in the golf cart.

In a Hurricane Simulator
Peter in a hurricane simulator with 45 mph winds, which is really a tropical storm simulator.

Putting her head in Alligator's Mouth
Grace with her head in an alligator’s mouth. She does look a little nervous.

Riding the Coaster
Laughing on the Dragon Coaster. The kids rode this 10 times.

Grace on the Beach
Grace on the beach with a bucket and shovel.

Here’s a link to all my photos from the trip.

Categorized as Travel