Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Road Trip Day 12: Welcome to Crime Scene Inn

*this is not the crowbar I saw today at Crime Scene Inn
As a child, we always had a joke about the motels we would end up staying in. They would likely be cheap, and maybe the door would hit the bed when you opened the door, and the best deals usually had a body outline on the floor they were so shady. This was just a joke, though, at least until today. We booked a hotel (Rodeway Inn) online for our goal today, Cheyenne, Wyoming. Upon finding the hotel immediately in Cheyenne, we joked that something wouldn't work out, because otherwise everything had gone perfectly today. Our timing all day was perfect, we even did some sightseeing and nobody had any major meltdowns on the road. I went in to check in at the hotel, the receptionist wasn't so friendly, but I chalked that up to the cold weather and the fact that we simply aren't in sunny California any more. We noticed that the parking spot in front of our room was a handicapped parking spot, so we decided to check the room quickly to make sure it wasn't full of low light switches and the like. Not to be prejudiced, but we ended up in an accessible room once on this trip, and while all the other rooms had supposedly been remodeled in the hotel, this one had not been. Dirty creepy bathroom, low light switches, fixtures that were half falling off of the wall. Not to mention a funny, hospital like smell. Wanting to avoid that, we had a quick look into the room. Strange, upon opening the door, we couldn't find the light switch, then I immediately noticed that the bed was messed up. Is this a joke, we wondered, this room hasn't been cleaned. Still not finding the light switch (and not thinking to look for a low, wheelchair accessible switch) I then noticed something lying on the floor. Was it a cane in this possibly handicapped accessible room? I stepped closer. No, it was not a cane. IT WAS A CROWBAR. I backed out of the room. Shut the door. Hurried to reception and checked right back out of that place faster than I had checked in, telling the perplexed receptionist about what we had found. I'm glad we didn't find the light switch, because who knows what else we would've found lurking in the dark corners of that room. Creepy. Honestly, I find the whole state of Wyoming creepy. It's just empty and empty and empty. And then this. I can't wait to get out of here. I just wish we were going west, not east. California is fantastic, and I hope I will be moving there soon. But more on that later. So everybody, watch the news, because if there was some kind of heinous crime committed in room 109 of Rodeway Inn in Cheyenne, WY, I was there. But I didn't do it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Road Trip days 3, 4 and 5
Good morning from Fabulous Las Vegas! After days and days of driving through snow, creepy mountain towns, plains, deserts, more mountains, and yesterday wind, a blizzard, rain, hail and an electrical storm with lightning bigger and brighter than I've ever seen before, we have arrived in Las Vegas. Slightly different than the original plan of driving to Mexico in hopes of arriving somewhere warm, it's still not bad. The Mexico plan was dropped because even Mexico is not warm this time of year. At least the part of Mexico we could've driven to. Here's some of what we've seen:

The Cadillac Ranch outside of Amarillo, Texas. This is on old Route 66, apparently some rancher decided to plant 10 Caddies in his field.

Nothing as far as the eye can see. Pretty much all of Texas and New Mexico.

Here is where vacation finally really began: in the Painted Desert in Arizona, part of Petrified Forest National Park.

Petroglyphs carved into rock over 1000 years ago by native people in the Petrified Forest area.

Lots and lots of Petrified Wood in the Petrified Forest National Park. It was so nice here, because despite rather cool temperatures and heavy wind, we could finally get out of the car, walk around and see something!

This is exactly what we were trying to escape: snow. There was a huge snow storm in Flagstaff, Arizona last night. We considered just stopping there, but after talking to a friendly tow truck driver (who noticed our Michigan license plate and said "Bet you wanted to get away from this!") we continued driving. His tip that the snow would be finished in about 30 miles was correct. We got out of the snow, and into some calmer weather, but crazier things awaited us: a lightning storm, for example, then a torrential downpour, and finally, a bit of hail. But none of that lasted very long and we continued on our way to Las Vegas.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Road Trip!
Thanks to that snow day (#4!) yesterday, we got an early start on our holiday road trip. Goal: California. So far we've driven 1,170 miles in the two days. Yesterday we made it to Springfield, Illinois, and today we have finally arrived in Clinton, Oklahoma. Oklahoma is kind of frightening to me, we wanted to stop and picnic, but it was too cold and I was freaked out by the campground and state park that I found somehow reminiscent of the film Deliverance. We had hoped to make it to Amarillo, Texas today, but that proved to be a bit farther than we could handle. All we've really done the last couple of days is drive, so there's not much to report. The real fun will start in the next couple of days when we get to Arizona, where we plan to see the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, among other things. But until then, we've got a lot of driving to do.
We drove through Chicago yesterday evening around rush hour and it was full of crazy drivers. This morning we drove through St. Louis and had a nice view of the Gateway Arch from the highway (above).
Probably my favorite gas station of all time, Kum & Go. Spotted multiple times in Oklahoma.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Snow day #3

Amazingly enough, it's a double header: today school is cancelled once again. It stopped snowing in the night, but we have an accumulation of about one foot of snow, which must have made the roads a horrible mess, making transport to and from school too dangerous. I only left the house yesterday to shovel out the driveway and clean off the cars, which is about the only possible form of exercise right now. Well, except for ice skating, but unfortunately, the ice is now covered in snow.

It's true: I can walk out my door, down to the river and ice skate, the river is frozen through. We skated for a couple hours each on Saturday and Sunday, and it was fantastic. I forgot how much I loved to skate. It's been years since I last skated, and I'm not very good at it, but for whatever reason I find it very fun. The reason I probably never skated in Dresden is because I was scared of too many people on the ice. That makes me nervous, because, as previously stated, I am not very good and feel that I can be a danger to myself and others on skates. This is also the reason I don't rollerblade. Ice skating involves ice, meaning that it's cold and one must wear layers of thick winter clothing, providing great padding in case you fall. There's also probably some snow around in case you take a spill, which I did a couple of times, which also pads the fall. And anyway, ice seems softer than concrete to me, which it probably isn't, but I am less scared of ice. Concrete, however, terrifies me, and this is why I refuse to put any form of wheels on my feet, because I know I would fall and do some major damage to myself.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Snow day #2!!

When my alarm went off at 5 this morning, I looked outside to see how things looked. It didn't look like it had snowed as much as had been forecasted, so I hit snooze and started to mentally prepare myself for the day. These last two weeks before Christmas are going to be rough, because I am burned out and the kids are whacky. But then, as I was giving up hope of a snow day, my phone rang. It was my mom. "Could I be so lucky?" I asked myself. And I was! School cancelled! Snow day! Hooray!
Here's the total amount of snow as of a few minutes ago.
In other news, gas is down to $1.42. It just keeps dropping. Incredible.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Snow day!

I got up on Monday after the four day weekend not really wanting to go to work. But I arose at 5 am, started getting ready, and as soon as I got out of the shower, I heard my phone ringing. Who's calling at 6 in the morning, I wondered. I didn't want to get my hopes up, but all I could think was "Snow day?" It had started snowing the previous evening, and the snow was heavy, but my school rarely closes for snow. But I answered my phone, and it was the bearer of great news on the other end! No school! Snow day! School had been cancelled due to the snow storm, and because it was supposed to continue dumping snow all day on Monday, making it dangerous to transport students to and from school. So I stayed up, had my coffee in peace before the boys woke up, read for a while, and just enjoyed not having to drive 30 minutes in to work and deal with a bunch of silly kids. Aaaah, if only every day were a snow day.

We had a great snow day, building an igloo and a snow bunny.

Above is a sampling of Christmas lights around Beaverton as well. These started going up around Thanksgiving time, and will be up, bright and shiny, until January!

Holy smokes!

Gas is down to $1.56 per gallon! I thought it was at its low yesterday with $1.58, but after I filled up my tank at the station where gas was $1.58, I found that gas was down to $1.56 on the other side of town! Is this a political thing because Michigan has the highest unemployment in the country? This is like the good old days before I moved to Germany and could fill my Escort for under $20! I filled my car for under $20 today! Hooray! All those people with silly gas pump noose stickers on their cars can peel them off now!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Niagara Falls for Thanksgiving

Rather than staying in dark, gray, cold Michigan for Thanksgiving, we decided to run to the border and visit Canada, our ultimate goal being Niagara Falls and Toronto. Fortunately the weather was good and we encountered no snow on the way, making the 5.5 hour drive no problem. On the way, we stopped in London, Ontario, a neat little city with a nice downtown with lots of restaurants, cafes, bars and shops. We took a walk there to stretch our legs and enjoyed being in a city again. We also enjoyed some Canadian humor: at construction sites there are signs that say "Danger due to _________" and the workers have to fill in what the danger comes from. Well, on the sign in London it was "Danger due to Ninjas" where they were working on a church. London is also where Labatt beer is brewed, but due to time constraints, we couldn't take a brewery tour. After leaving London, we got a little bit lost, and wound up in Hamilton, actually a bit north of where we wanted to be. After establishing that the people there seemed to be unable to read (maps, at least) we decided to just spend the night there on Thursday because the remaining drive to Niagara Falls was only about another half hour. In Hamilton we also discovered something else that was interesting: beer can only be purchased in Canada (or at least in Ontario) in "Beer Stores", which are actually named "The Beer Store". This only after a trying incident in a supermarket where my German husband attempted to ask for beer, but the supermarket employees couldn't understand his pronunciation of beer. "Bouillon?" they asked. Then he said "Beer! Alcohol!" and they tried to direct him to the wine section. Wine was not what he wanted. Finally, "beer" was understood, and they directed us to "The Beer Store".
On Friday we got up and had a quick drive to Niagara Falls, and were lucky to have not so cold sunny weather. The only drawback of the falls is all that water that they spray! But regardless of getting soaked, it was still nice to get out into the fresh air and walk, and the spray did have a nice side effect: rainbows!

Here's the rainbow created by the sun and all that mist from the falls. In the background is the Rainbow Bridge, which connects Canada and the United States.

All that natural beauty is not without danger: if you feel yourself drawn to the falls like sailors used to be drawn in by the song of the Lorelei, these signs are there to remind of the evil lurking behind that natural splendor.

We had actually planned to drive on to Toronto on Friday afternoon, but after spending the day walking around the Canadian and American sides of the falls, and noticing that they light the falls in the evening, we decided to spend a little more time and have a look at the falls at night as well. The city of Niagara has been built up like Las Vegas--in the top picture you can see the big flashy hotels, and yes, at least one of those buildings is a casino. In the downtown area there are also all of the tourist traps you find in every major tourist destination these days: Hard Rock Cafe, Rainforest Cafe, Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum, Guiness World of Records Museum and of course lots of restaurants that you can also find in your local mall. And once you leave these tourist areas on either side of the border, all you can find are some sad, run down little towns that look like they've seen better days.

On Friday evening we crossed the border back into Canada after a long wait on Rainbow Bridge and being questioned intensely by a Canadian border guard with a bullet proof vest on. We drove back to Hamilton, where we stayed again due to its convenience and proximity to Toronto. Saturday morning we drove to Toronto. I've never visited Toronto before, but it definitely has the flair of a big city like Chicago or New York with its skyscrapers and shopping areas. We didn't do any touristy stuff there really, we just walked around town and soakedup that big city feeling. We also had a great breakfast at the Sunset Grill--definitely a good choice for all day breakfast if you are very hungry, like friendly service and want a change from the normal fast food fare! This seemed to be a popular destination for the locals, as it had an amazing turnover and was completely full the whole time we were there.

One more thing that gave me a laugh in Toronto: fries poutine. This is something I had heard of before, but couldn't really believe. It's fries smothered in cheese curds and gravy. Delicious? You be the judge. I didn't try it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

In the news

For my German readers: An article in der Zeit about Obama voters in the southern states. This article doesn't reflect my experience in Michigan with the mood surrounding the election, but is an interesting report nonetheless.

And a link to the fake New York Times...haha. Apparently readers were a little slow on the uptake that this was not the real news when they bought this paper.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gas today: $1.92

I was a little worried when I drove into work today and saw that gas had gone up to $2.09 after dropping to $1.92 yesterday, but on my way out of town I had to stop for some bread, and the Meijer gas station had the lowest price in town, so I filled her up!

In other news, I won some kind of prize from a car dealer. I got a flyer in the mail with a little scratch off thingy, and my number matches the number printed on the inside of the flyer, which means I may have one a 2008 Ford F150 truck, $7000 cash, an island getaway, or $25 cash. The dealer is not too far from my work, so I think I will go tomorrow and see what I did (or didn't) win. That should be good for a laugh.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Gas today: $2.13 per gallon!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Gas today: $2.18 a gallon!

Check out the neat stickers you get when you vote! Actually, regular people just get one, but when you bring a foreigner and an exceptionally cute two-year-old, you get two stickers and some candy. Voting was never such a great deal!

I have to say that voting this year was strange. As previously stated, I have voted from my undisclosed foreign location for the last 5.5 years, so going to the polls was strange this year. Fortunately, I didn't have on my Sarah Palin T-shirt, so they couldn't send me away from the polling place for wearing campaign clothes. But down to serious matters, my secret ballot didn't feel so secret. I recall voting in the past in little booths with a curtain that you close behind you so no one can see your supposedly "secret" ballot. Well, this time around there were some booths, but without curtains, and some tables with little privacy walls, and some seats right out in the open where you could just sit and fill out your ballot for all to see. Really, in any of these three voting situations, someone could easily see how you were voting by just looking over your shoulder. The most hilarious thing, however was the fact that you get your ballot and it's inside a privacy envelope. The ballot itself is huge, about the size of an A3 or ledger sized piece of paper, and printed on both sides. So you get out your huge ballot, fill it out where someone may or may not see what you are marking, then you have to put it back into the privacy envelope so no one can see what you marked on it (this year you had to fill in little lines, not punch holes as previously), feed it into the voting computer and then, finally, you get your stickers and candy. We'll see how this all turns out tomorrow.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Registered to vote and ready to go!

I just checked my Michigan voter registration online to be sure I am ready to go on Tuesday, and sure enough, I'm registered. I was concerned because I had voted from overseas for the last 5 years or so, and now that I'm back, I wasn't sure if I was still on the roster or not, but I am! So on Tuesday I will be headed to the Beaverton Township Hall after parent-teacher conferences to cast my votes. As usual, there's lots on the ballot, not just president, but tons of other state and local offices, as well as some proposals, like one (Proposal 1) regarding the use, production and sale of medical marijuana and one (Proposal 2) regarding the use of embryonic stem cells for research. Two very interesting and highly charged topics.
Here's a look at the political signs that lots of people have in their yards right now. You can see they aren't only proclaiming who they want for president, but also which local and state candidates they support, for offices such as district court judge, treasurer, clerk, congress person, state representative, etc.
Gas: $2.29 per gallon!

And that price in Beaverton. It's probably even less in Midland! Sweet! We should go on a road trip to celebrate.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

God Bless America!

That's what I thought this afternoon driving out of town on my way home from work today. Why, you ask? Gas only costs $2.36 per gallon today! That computes to just under 60 American cents per liter. It's been dropping every day now for weeks, and I am amazed that even under $2.50, it's still dropping. Gas prices haven't been this low in years, have they? I don't know, since I haven't really cared about gas prices for the last years due to the fact of a) not having a car and b) not wanting one anyway and c) living somewhere where it didn't matter, at least in my humble opinion. But now that I am a real American again and drive a total of at least 50 miles to work and back every single day, I am thrilled that the economy is doing terribly and I can buy cheap gas again!

In other news, the "Obama's going to win" buzz is still circulating, even in these parts. We'll see what happens next Tuesday. I can't wait to go vote!!

Michigan's Fall Colors

The leaves are mostly off now, but this is how it looked about 2 weeks ago in northern Gladwin County and in Roscommon County. The colors were very intense, now there are just some rust colored and brown leaves still hanging on. And of course all of the boring old pine trees are still green.
My Halloween Pumpkins

A favorite fall pastime: carving pumpkins.

The Professor



The Village Idiot.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A quick update

Due to my lack of a home internet connection, I'm not posting any pictures right now, though I have a few I'd like to share...of political posters and other assorted interesting/funny/curious cultural stuff. But as soon as we have our internet connection ironed out, I'll get those up.
It seems mud bogging is not as beloved as I once thought, it is actually scorned. We had some of our neighbors over for dinner Friday night, and two of them are the ones that sold Lloyd the mud bogger his property. He is not well liked in the neighborhood, actually, he seems to be quite disliked due to his mud bog. It's an eyesore that none of the more cultivated neighbors can appreciate.

In other news, the campaign for president is in full swing. I seem to be living in McCain country, as confirmed by the neighbors who were over for dinner and all of the signs around Beaverton and Midland. There are lots of Obama supporters too, but McCain seems to have the upper hand here. We'll see what happens at the beginning of November, I can't wait to find out.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Mud bogg 2nite Lloyd's 38th

Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of that dandy spray painted sign out by the road just around the corner of my house, but tonight there is a mud bog event in my neighborhood. Apparently because it's Lloyd's 38th birthday. For the uninitiated, mud boggin' is a favorite pastime of rural folk. Basically, you flood a field, creating the muddy "bog" and get all your friends with big jacked up, rigged up trucks with big tires and four-wheel drive to come and drive in the mud. Yeah, that's it. I don't know how this can be fun or entertaining, but it sure is for my neighbors, and for lots of other people around here.

By the way, I had a dream that I came back to Dresden for the weekend and didn't want to return to the United States on Sunday. That's pretty close to reality.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Assorted stuff from Beaverton

Here's a shot of the Beaverton gang. I was hiding inside a piece of playground equipment to get this picture. The gang leader appears to be "Praying Mantis", the guy on the right. The gang is friendly, though. They did stop throwing the basketball around as we passed to enter the playground.

The second car. I haven't yet posted pictures of the first car, but that's because I still need to wash it, it's all dusty. This is the second, a super sweet Jeep Grand Cherokee. I bet you never thought I would sing the praises of any SUV (super useless vehicle, or officially sport utility vehicle) but this really is a sweet car. It's very comfortable and you can haul a ton of stuff in the back, and it's a four wheel drive V8, meaning that the weather or snow will never stop us. The main drawback of this vehicle: it only gets about 20 miles a gallon (11.7 liters per 100 km) on gas!!

Yet another view from the house. It's fantastic to live on the water!

The boys like it too, because you can just walk out the back door, onto the dock, and catch many species of fish. Here's a pike.
This one's a bluegill.

I don't know if we figured out what this one is. They were all thrown back, none were eaten. Yet.


This is a delicious pudding filled long john.

And this is a donut. A real donut.

As much as I love Germany, there is one thing that the country as a whole just doesn't get, and that's donuts. Sure, my German readers may be saying "Aha! Sarah really is a true American!" right now, but this donut thesis is true. The donuts you can buy in any German establishment claiming to sell donuts are not donuts at all, but creepy, airy, bready things of no substance. This morning I woke up and said "I want a donut for breakfast." This is not something that happens often, I probably haven't truly craved a donut in years, but just the thought of a delicious, sweet, cakey donut, fresh from the bakery where I worked 10 years ago along with my coffee this Saturday morning got me all fired up for the 10 minute drive into town.
I must admit, the pudding filled long john is what I truly craved, and it wasn't as good as I remembered. Somehow they've changed the recipe, and there was very little pudding inside, making it a true disappointment. But the donut, that delicious, cakey, frosted thing with sprinkles on it was just perfect. An authentic donut actually consists of cake batter which has been dropped from an apparatus that makes it round with the hole in the center into a deep fryer. Deep frying that cake batter is what makes the donut so sinfully good and crispy. Then it's frosted, more or less with pure sugar mixed with a little water, and can be topped with a number of things, like nuts, sprinkles or cinammon sugar. I prefer the sprinkles, because they step up the already extreme sweetness of the sugary frosting, putting you almost into a sugar coma.
But please don't think I've lost all of my good taste: yesterday after work I met with some of my other foreign language teacher colleagues, and we snacked in a classy way. First we had French cheeses and baguette, and topped it all off with a fruit tart made here in Michigan by a real French pastry chef. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of that, but it was just beautiful. Much prettier than the donuts. And delicious. It had a lightly sweet, buttery crust, topped with a thin layer of creamy cheese filling, then covered with artfully arranged fruit, and finally glazed with apricot glaze. Mmm.