Captain Amurica Counts Down: Top 5 Roadtrip Moments

If you know my friend Captain Amurica, you know he loves countdowns. Here’s his special countdown of the top 5 moments from our cross-country roadtrip.

And with the journey completed as I write this, I’d like to offer up my top 5 things/experiences/events from our tour of America the beautiful, purple mountain’s majesty and endless fields of amber waves of grain:

 amberwaves

5. Eating Rocky Mountain Oysters while in the Rocky Mountains. Go figure.

4. Tie: Both playing and winning slots for the first time in Vegas and a special midnight tour of the Jefferson City Capitol Building (based off our very own here in DC.) Thanks to my buddy Jimmy for being a phenomenal tour guide and an even better host. Word up brosef.

3. Arthur Bryants BBQ in Kansas City. The sweet, smokey, molasses sauce they use probably has just a little bit of crack sprinkled in there. Tantalizing. Also, their sides are absolutely bomb.

2. Hearing Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s song “Ohio” for the first time while driving through Ohio for the first time. An amazing song about a terrible tragedy.

1. Completing this journey of endurance and moral fortitude through sheer force of will and  copious amounts caffeine alongside the Star Spangled Girl. Couldn’t ask for a better partner in crime. Period.

The feeling is mutual.

Advertisements

Captain Amurica Across America – Includes a Poll!

Part two in a three part guest blog series from the amazing Captain Amurica. Did you miss part one? Check it out here.

Arriving into Denver via dark mountain tunnels and passes, with the occasional bighorn sheep apparently just chillin on the side of the mountain. Insert mandatory Will Ferrell/Robert Goulet reference here. Starting with an early morning in the Mile High City compliments of a college friend, Biker Jim’s exotic sausages made for the perfect fuel for the day. A pheasant – rattlesnake and Alaskan Reindeer duo of sausages happily consumed, a tour of Denver was to be had. With a great food scene and even better beer scene, Denver was frankly, awesome. Rocky mountain oysters (which are apparently not actual oysters haha but with the flavor of great veal) and a hand crafted mint julip to start, followed by pizza and a good conversation with the waitress of Lucky Pie Pizza about the greater merits of the prosciutto and fig combination. Any of my close friends will tell you that prosciutto and fig is not only one of my all time favorite combinations, but also extremely funny to shout out randomly in Italian at any given time. Talk about my kind of place. I was sad to see Denver and its Rocky Mountain Back drop fade into wide open sky and endless prairies of Kansas towards Jefferson City, MO and Morgantown, WV, the final leg of our trip.

 Jefferson City, Missouri

1005175_10102443030873366_853963205_n

Jeff City, MO is a small town about two hours from St. Louis ( affectionately known as Da Lou) that is also the capital city of Missouri. With so many billboards promoting “adult shops for both singles and couples” I could only imagine what awaited us there. Driving at night we apparently missed the opportunity to view a multitude meth houses per capita for which Missouri leads the US and possibly the world, Jefferson City was a quiet, clean, and quaint town that has that Main Street vibe of old time Americana without ever having to try. A few Busch Lights (in honor of Missouri, of course) and we were walking the steps of the Capitol Building, gazing towards the Governor’s Mansion, and touched by the law enforcement officers memorial. The Mighty Missouri River lay in front of it, and had it not been for the enormous swarms of bugs that often surround large bodies of water on hot and humid summer days, I could have spent all night there. Alas free time was not something we had the luxury of truly enjoying, so instead packed up the next morning for Morgantown, with a stop in Da Lou on the way.

St. Louis, Missouri 

Having been to St. Louis before and having enjoyed it, this stopover was for two things: the Gateway Arch, and frozen custard. Ted Drewes to be exact. And while i’ve never met the dude, gotta give mad respect to him cause the guy knows how to make a bowl of ice cream. Rich, creamy, flavorful and smooth, this was definitely not your low fat treat. Calories be damned, that shit was money. And a perfect sugar rush to get us on our way. As for the Arch? It’s big. And when I say big, I mean it. The Washington Monument ain’t got shit on the Arch. You have to strain your neck just to take in the full purview, and the fact that there are windows across the top presumably for tour taking would’ve the kind of shit your pants awesome that one can only get from sky diving or bungee jumping.

Leaving St. Louis was also the first time that I’ve ever in my life stopped at a Jack in the Box, but the mere fact that you can get cheeseburgers, curly fries,  mozzarella sticks, AND tacos all at the same counter left me befuddled and giddy at the same time.

jacks

Morgantown, West Virginia

Heading into Morgantown,WV reminded me of the trips I used to take to see my grandparents in Pittsburgh. Same landscape, same tyoe of people, same blue collar feeling.  Other than that I was able to glean one other aspect of life in the Mountaineer state and the accompanying West Virginia University – those kids party. And party hard. And love football. And when those two things mix together you have one of lifes greatest events – college football tailgates on Saturdays. Props to those cats at WVU for doing it big. Gotta get back up there in the fall.

The Star-Spangled Girl asks:

Go West, Young Man!

gowest

This blog, brought to you by the linguistic styling my  star-spangled sidekick, Captain Amurica.

Seeing as the Star Spangled Girl decided that she wanted to regain her cherished independence from the clutches of DC’s public transportation system and my work schedule, it was decided that a cross country trip driving the aforementioned Yellow Submarine was to be had. Engaging in such a trek was something I had talked about and wanted to do for awhile, and seeing as how such an opportunity might not present itself in the near future, I willingly agreed to be a travel partner, navigator, and general co-pilot on our trek across the wide open nothingness of middle America. With stops planned in LA, Las Vegas, Denver, Jefferson City, MO, and Morgantown, WV the stage was set to traverse nearly 2600 miles and 41 hours of driving time. Needless to say the trip would be a lot of open road in a very small and enclosed space. I just hoped that by the end of it I wouldn’t be hitchiking it home.

Los Angeles

My first impression of LA, having never been there before, was nothing if not an odd sense of familiarity. Having so many movies filmed there, it almost seems as if one has been there before, with the palm tree lined streets and wide open 5 lane freeways conjuring images of every movie I’ve ever seen that was filmed in sunny southern California. And sunny it is no doubt, with gorgeous weather and even better beaches. Coming from the East Coast where the humidity has been between 90-100% , the lack of swampiness in the air was quite a welcome relief. The sheer expanse of LA was also noticeable, as it seemed almost impossible to get anywhere without having to hop on a freeway with a million other people. The lack of any sort of real “downtown” are a la New York, Boston, or DC was also something that I had trouble wrapping my head around, but all things considered LA is pretty awesome. While there it was a whirlwind of family 4th of July BBQs, eating lots of food, and doing all the toursity things that must be done upon a virgin visit to any major metropolis such as LA. It is at this time that I would like to extend a special thank you to the family of the Star Spangled Girl for taking me in like family and providing endless hospitality. Thank you for everything.

While in LA we decided to do tours of Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice Beach, and Westwood, where I had possibly the best ice cream sandwich on the planet. A quick word about each:

  • Hollywood – As a lover of movies and someone who could carry on an entire conversation based solely in movie quotes, Hollywood was great. We toured the Chinese theater, the Walk of Fame (if only to find Alex Trebek’s star), and Hollywood Blvd. Lots of tourists, lots of shops and lots of hustlers tryin to squeeze a dollar out of 15 cents.
  • Santa Monica  Saw the famous pier, the end of historic Route 66, and played some skee ball at the arcades. Not too shabby.
  • Venice Beach – Ahh the boardwalk at Venice Beach, where I saw the greatest collection of artists, stall hockers, and general weirdos. The kingdom of the eclectic is what I would refer to it as, with everything from hand carved African art to $40 medical marijuana cards all available on a stretch of sandy Boardwalk. Stopped by Muscle Beach to take some pics and Marvel at the athletic endeavors of a couple of rather large men engaged in what YouTube has dubbed the “24 hour prison workout.” The sights, sounds, and especially smells were something I won’t soon forget.

Stay tuned for more from our courageous partner later this week.

BBQ Baby

Although not nearly as cool as Middle Earth, exploring Middle America has been an experience. Turns out there’s a Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and/or Franklin just about everywhere in this country. There’s also a Kansas City, Kansas; Kansas City, Missouri; Kansas, Illinois. You think Americans could be a bit more creative. After 9 hours of staring out at endless plains and fields, Anthony and I took reprieve at Arthur Bryant’s BBQ in Kansas City, Missouri before stopping for the night in Jefferson City.

20130711-213310.jpg
On the border between Kansas and Missouri, Kansas City is known for many things, but perhaps most of all, it’s known for BBQ. Travel Channel’s Man v Food showcased two of Kansas City’s finest: Gates and Arthur Bryant’s. We chose to stop at the latter and we weren’t disappointed.

20130711-213212.jpg
For just $12.20 you could choose a pound of any combination of their mouthwatering smoked, pulled, juicy, delicious meats. (If you’re reading this, Nick, you’d be in HEAVEN) For my poor pork-hating body, Anthony and I split a half pound of burnt ends and a half pound of beef brisket. On the side we had baked beans and coleslaw. Magnificent would be an understatement. The sides were even so good that Anthony went back up to order another one of each. Meanwhile, I sneakily slopped up the saucey, greasy, fatty remnants of our beef feast from the plate with a slice of white bread.

20130711-213414.jpg
Properly protein’d up, we returned to the road…ready for Missouri’s capital, Jefferson City, to meet the future President of the United States.

Mile High Munchies

It was a gamble leaving Cedar City, Utah for Denver at 8pm on Monday. There was a chance we wouldn’t make it, but my instincts told me to take the gamble. I’m happy to report we safely made it to the Mile High city at 4:30am on Tuesday.

We dropped the car off at the VW dealership in Lakewood, and were able to pick it up 4 hours and $1000 later. That’s fun.

But the car trouble didn’t stop us from enjoying the full splendor of the city of Denver, Colorado. To be honest, I didn’t have high expectations for the city. In fact, I thought it was going to be full of hipsters and mountain men. I was right…but it turns out that’s not a terrible thing. In fact, Denver is extraordinarily cool. Anthony and I met up with his college buddy who works as a bar manager (as well as a number of other jobs). Adam graciously led us around the city, showing us a little peek into the everyday world of Denver.

Denver speaks to me. In particular, Denver speaks to my tummy. If you know me, you know I like some crazy food. Denver didn’t disappoint. First, we stopped off for lunch at an exotic sausage place called Biker Jim’s.

20130711-184440.jpg

20130711-184556.jpg
There’s a similar style place by where I live in Clarendon, but NOWHERE near as good. Anthony and I split:

Alaskan Reindeer Sausage w/ Cream Cheese & Caramelized Onions
Rattlesnake & Pheasant Sausage w/ Harissa Roasted Cactus, Malaysian Jam, Scallions, Cilantro & Onions (two ways)
Charred Tahini Cauliflower
Good Juju, a beer brewed with Ginger

20130711-184712.jpg

20130711-184814.jpg

20130711-184833.jpg
It was refreshing drink, delicious food, and outstanding company. But the food and drink adventure didn’t stop there!

20130711-185022.jpg
After a stop off at the Great Divide tap house for some of the best IPAs and stouts I’ve ever tasted (don’t worry, Guinness, your place is safe in my heart), our wonderful host took us to one of the most highly-rated bars in the whole US of A, Falling Rock Tap House. For a mere $7 I had the opportunity to taste a world renowned IPA on tap, Russian River Pliny the Elder.

20130711-190550.jpg

20130711-190655.jpg
After taking an afternoon nap fueled by early mornings and strong beer, I fulfilled a long-time dream…trying Rocky Mountain Oysters. In a moment of vacation brain, Anthony protested to eating them because he’s “allergic to oysters.” After a beat, a wave of embarrassment washed over his face as he realized that Rocky Mountain Oysters are actually bull testicles.

20130711-185553.jpg

20130711-185523.jpg
So what do balls taste like? Actually, not much different than veal! I’m going to have to look for a place close by to D.C. to try them because boy-oh-boy those things were good.

We hopped over to a pizza place in downtown Denver for dinner. After devouring a charcuterie plate and an entire pizza, we headed back to Adam’s place to crash and prepare for our journey to Jefferson City, MO.

Car Trouble

I began this post in a Starbucks in St. George, Utah. I’m now finishing it up in a Starbucks in Cedar City, Utah- 35 miles away, 2 hours later. I’ve gone through all the stages of grief and I’ve resigned myself to the idea that no road trip is complete without a teensy bit of road trouble.

20130708-184356.jpg
However, its usually the unintended hiccups and side trips that create the best stories. A couple years ago, my parents, grandparents, brothers, cousin and I went to Nassau. Upon exiting the cruise ship, we were practically accosted by “Island entrepreneurs.” My mother decides we absolutely MUST take a tour of the Island, and agrees to allow of these eager young gents show us the town. Turns out, he had no car, and no idea of the history of the Island. He just drove us around and pointed out things like where he “pays his bills” and made things up. We literally got taken for a ride. I suppose if we’d gotten a real tour it wouldn’t make for nearly as wonderful a story.

I’m crossing my fingers, waiting to escape the beautiful clutches of Utah. I spent the last couple days in Venice Beach and Las Vegas and I’m still looking forward to this kind of people watching. I killed some time earlier watching women in traditional Mormon garb load their truck at a Walmart. A Walmart…in Utah…playing Piano Man. There has to be some bright side.