Friday, September 30, 2011

Epic Vacation

I seem to always cram too many things into every Byway adventure. I just want to see and do everything. It is a hard thing to temper. My honeymoon? Five countries in 14 days. This week's East Coast vacation? More than six distinct places and pieces to it - all in seven days!

Since last Friday we've been to:

 -  Washington, DC (Solar Decathlon - running thru Sunday by the way - and University of Maryland team won the competition...if you go, you must check out the Appalachian State house - 3rd place and our favorite);
-  the famous Frank Lloyd Wright Falling Water house in western PA;
-  site seeing and visiting friends in Pittsburgh;
-  the Flight 93 Memorial (its just off of Route 30 between Pittsburgh and my home town in central PA - and its intense);
-  Chambersburg, PA (my hometown) to visit family and friends;
-  Gettysburg (for a quick tour of the battlefields and some history lessons);
-  and now Maplewood, NJ/NYC to visit friends, visit some art museums (definitely the Guggenheim, and maybe MoMA), and see a Broadway play (The Mountaintop with Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett).

Back to DC on Sunday and then home. Wow what a week! I've been so busy and on the move with little time to blog, but there will be more posts to come soon with some details, travel tips, and photos for these Byway adventures. I've got some photos that are too good and must be shared.

Happy weekend...its almost here! I am now headed to the city with my some of my favorite people for the Guggenheim, some cocktails and dinner at a swanky place, and a Broadway show. The Byway is beautiful. xo

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Falling Water Worth a Visit

I've been traveling some really Scenic Byways on the east coast over the past few days - in my old stomping ground of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. This past weekend was my one year wedding anniversary, and it was close to my husband's birthday, so I wanted to do something fun to celebrate and to surprise him. So, with a trip to the east coast planned, I decided to surprise him with a tour of Falling Water in western Pennsylvania, south of Pittsburgh.

Falling Water is probably the most well-known house designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. I would venture that the average person probably doesn't know much about architects and architecture, but they've probably heard of Wright and seen photographs of Falling Water. Many consider it an iconic home design in architecture and one of Wright's best pieces of work, if not the best.

The house was built in the 1930s (1936-39) for the Kaufmann family as a weekend getaway from their main residence in Pittsburgh. Interesting fact that I did not recall from earlier reading about the place...the Kaufmanns were famous for Pittsburgh's Kaufmann's Department Store, which would later become Macy's.

The Kaufmann family lived and worked in Pittsburgh, which was still at that time a very dirty city from all of the industrial activity (coal, steel, manufacturing, etc.), and would escape to the nearby mountains on the weekends for relaxation and clean air.

The house sits over a water fall on Bear Run in the Laurel Highlands of the Allegheny Mountains. It is a lush, gorgeous setting - a sampling of the forests and streams you will find all over western and central Pennsylvania. It was a very unique and modern house for its time - sometimes labeled as 'organic architecture' as it blended into its setting, incorporating boulders and water flow on the site - with all the rooms opening up to the nature that surrounds it. It really is beautiful - inside and out - and worth a visit.

I recommend you visit the website and check out the different tour options - there are many to suit different interests, and tickets range from $8.00-$1,000. Yes, I said $1,000. That is for the Focus Tour. I selected the Brunch Tour - one that runs for two hours, is more in-depth, promises a smaller group than the standard tours and allows you to see more rooms of the house, and that ends with a lovely private brunch on one of the home's terraces.  A little pricey (nowhere close to the $1,000 Focus Tour...closer to $100/person), but totally worth it, especially for a special occasion like an anniversary.

If you are interested in the Brunch Tour (Saturdays and Sundays only), you will have to wait until next year as we were on the last one of these types of tours for the year. Also worth noting - October might be one of the most beautiful times of the year to see the house, with the foliage in full Fall color explosion, however it is also the busiest time of the year for the place, getting up to 1,000 visitors per day at that time. I recommend going early in the morning, doing one of the special tours that include less people, and going at a less touristy time in the year so you can appreciate the full beauty of the place without the crazy crowds. We ended up with a beautiful day with a hint of color change starting up in the surrounding woods, temperatures starting to cool, and light breezes that created a magical falling leaf effect to complement the falling water...

Get on your Byway and check it out: Falling Water.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pittsburgh Architecture is Blowing My Mind

MSB had us in gorgeous western PA (my fabulous home state) yesterday, visiting Falling Water. I never spent enough time exploring this part of the state and oh man this is a place to put on your travel list, especially if you like nature and driving on country roads and history - western PA in general (lots to see) and Falling Water and Pittsburgh in particular. I will be blogging with photos soon about Falling Water.  After Falling Water we headed to Pittsburgh for the night, for a quick tour and to see some friends. I wish we were spending more than a day here - there is a lot of cool stuff to see and do here. I recommend this place for a visit.

Only an hour walk around downtown Pittsburgh yesterday, and my jaw was dropping to the pavement in amazement at the history and beauty of crazy, eclectic Pittsburgh are just a few shots.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Do not yell into fan!

Well I never even thought about yelling into the fan until I saw this sign. Then I couldn't stop thinking about yelling into the fan. Stupid sign.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Day at the Utah State Fair

I went to the Utah State Fair (and Demolition Derby) this past Sunday. Who wants to see some photos?

The Utah State Fair comes to Salt Lake City every September for about 10 days. My husband and I made this same trip to the Utah Fair and the derby last year, less than one week before our wedding (!) - which seemed crazy at the time, but we couldn't resist the opportunity. We had so much fun we had to do it again this year.

I love the fair. Who doesn't love a fair? County, state, town - they are all awesome to experience. I grew up in rural Pennsylvania and fairs are big there, as they are in a lot of agricultural places in the US. Going to the fair was like a right of passage as a young teen. You had to go and hang out at the fair with your friends. Even living in the urban DC area as an adult we used to go to the Montgomery County Fair (which is huge and pretty amazing). My Scenic Byway has a lifetime of memories of hanging out at the fair and I bet many of you do too.

Once again we got to the fair too late (Sunday was the last day) to see most of the animals - my favorite part of the fair - but even with most of the animals packed up and on their way home, the fair had all that other freaky goodness - awesome people watching, great bad food (fried pickles, cotton candy, caramel apples, funnel cake, etc.), rides, games, surprisingly good and hideously bad local arts and crafts, and lots of junk to buy (think toe rings, feather hair clips, kitchen gadgets you don't really need, bad t-shirts, and so on).

We missed the free KC & the Sunshine Band concert earlier in the week. Now for free I would have gone to see that. I love KC! Hearing that KC had played the Fair reminded me of other similar Fair acts I had seen in my youth including Leif Garrett, Rick Springfield and Peaches & Herb. We all know the Fair is a go-to spot for music from our pasts. Yes, the Fair does fun, cheesy acts really, really well.

This year I got many great photos during our day at the fair and here are a few for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy! Demolition derby photos to come in a future post...

I call this one "Prison for Ponies." Horse slavery. 
That is a big bull. He was very sweet. 
My teeth are thanking me that I did not have one. 
I really think I want a bunny. 
Or a funny little pigeon. 
Ahhh....butter sculptures. I like how this woman blends in. 
Why yes, that is a giant Michael Jackson tattoo on the back of her thigh. 
Father Goose? Who doesn't love a big burly crazy guy who trains geese? 
Fried butter. Fried jelly beans. Exotic meats and bugs. Yuck.

The Fair, with SLC and mountains in the background.

From MSB 2010 visit to the Utah State Fair:

Who Doesn't Love Chickens?

Utah State Fair

Monday, September 19, 2011

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Shiver me timbers! I almost forgot that today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Yes. Every September 19.

If you do not know about this holiday - where have you been? Your life is obviously not as fun as it could be. Well, now you know. Mark it on your calendars so you can plan properly for next year. You know you want to have a pirate party. You know you do.

Check out the OFFICIAL site from the founders of the holiday: There you can find the history and a lot of silliness like the Pirate song, Pirate pick up lines, Pirate games and Pirate advice. Most important you can find the English to Pirate translator. But guess what? You can do this through Google too. Learn more about it here.

You can learn more about ITLPD from our friend Wikipedia and the pirates have a FB page with more than 16,000 members. This is an international holiday people - celebrated worldwide by mates in the know.

And if you live in the DC area, you should definitely plan to go to the local pirate bar tonight. What? You didn't know that there was a pirate bar in the vicinity? Well there is. That would be Piratz Tavern in Silver Spring, MD. If you haven't been there, you do not know what you are missing. Especially on the Pirates' official day. Its where all good pirates would go. Go with your friends, drink a lot of grog, do silly table toasts in pirate speak and stare at the people in costume. Because it will be full of people in proper pirate attire. And it will be awesome.


[Hold on thar! I just checked the website (its been quite some time since I've been there) and I see that they are closed Mondays...and this year's ITLPD is unfortunately on a Monday. That is an unfortunate piece of news if you don't already have your pirate plans lined up. I don't know if they would have held their big festivities yesterday, or tomorrow, of if maybe they will be open today as it is the big holiday. Better call before you sail on up there to the tavern.]

Driving from Pioneertown to Barstow

In the late afternoon of September 14, 2011, leaving Pioneertown to head back to Salt Lake City, driving on Old Woman Springs Road (Route 247) towards Barstow, the sun was setting and a storm was moving in. We watched an amazing show of sun and clouds, then the skies opened up and poured rain, hard and fast, causing flash flooding on some of the road. Then the storm quickly disappeared and we were rewarded with an amazing sunset. Beautiful Byway scene...

Casa Del Mar Hotel, Santa Monica - Leftover Cuties

If you are in LA, I recommend going to the Casa Del Mar hotel on the beach in Santa Monica right near the pier. It is a beautiful hotel, with an excellent lobby lounge. The atmosphere is great, the people watching is fun, they have good drinks and food (I've enjoyed the wine list and many of the lounge menu items - including awesome sushi), and they have excellent, free live music most nights. This is a good date place.

We stumbled upon this place back in February, staying with a friend in the area who suggested it as a place to get a drink. We were loving the space, food, company and music when suddenly the band started playing a song that we knew. That was when we realized that this band, The Leftover Cuties, was the band who does the theme song for the the Showtime series The Big C with Laura Linney. We love that show and the theme song is ingrained in my head. I had no idea who sang it and it was a surprise to discover that the band plays here most Friday nights for free. Think 40s, 50s light, fun jazz with a great singer, brushed drums, an upright bass, piano, accordion, ukelele. They've got two CDs and some singles - all good. I love them - and they are really fun to see live. You can check them out on iTunes or on their website at the link above.

We stopped in there again two Fridays ago when we were in Santa Monica for one night, to meet a friend and have a few drinks and see the band one more time before they were heading out for some east coast performances (NYC). We got prime seats on the couch right in front of the band, some wine and sushi, and it was another lovely evening at the Casa Del Mar. 

Casa Del Mar
1910 Ocean Way
Santa Monica, CA 90405

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ma Rouge Coffee House - Yucca Valley, CA

Its Sunday. So I feel I should write about coffee...

When we build our house in the Mojave Desert (hopefully next year, fingers crossed), while our closest town will be Pioneertown, the closest town that has more than a post office and Pappy & Harriet's bar will be Yucca Valley. Yucca Valley is a small (population of around 20,000), high desert town, with some basic necessity stores and businesses, but it doesn't seem to have much in the way of what I would consider good restaurants. Its full of fast food, chain places and little hole in the wall places. I am sure there are some hidden gems that we will discover when we are living there, and I look forward to finding those needles in the haystack. (If you have recommendations, please send them my way!)

Up until now I have been grateful that Yucca Valley has a Starbucks - not only for some good, strong coffee, but also free wireless internet and some decent food options. However, I am really happy to have discovered Ma Rouge Coffee House on our last trip out there - a groovy alternative, with good coffee and coffee house food, free internet and a relaxing coffee house environment with nice music and nice staff.

Ma Rouge opened in April 2011 in the space (an old Rexall drugstore) where Water Canyon used to reside. Those of you familiar with the area probably know and remember Water Canyon which was open from 1999 until 2009. By the time I started coming to Yucca Valley, it was closed.

Ma Rouge's food menu has quiches, salads, sandwiches and some pastries. We ate lunch their twice and breakfast once. I had some of the best quiche I have ever had, and a fantastic salad, all fresh and delicious. I loved the atmosphere. The salad I had at Ma Rouge was so fresh that I am certain they must have bought the produce next door at the Farm Fresh Express that sells organic locally sourced produce.

If you find yourself in the Yucca Valley area looking for a place to chill out with coffee, some food and wireless internet, check out Ma Rouge.

Open every day 7 am - 7 pm
Ma Rouge Coffee House
55844 29 Palms Highway
Yucca Valley, CA 92284
Tel: +1-760-365-4100

Check out their FB page and check out the Yelp reviews here.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Solar Decathlon

What the heck is the Solar Decathlon? Awesomeness.

And you can see it September 23 - October 2 in Washington, DC.

A week from today MSB will take me there. And I can't wait.

The Solar Decathlon is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). It is a competition challenging collegiate teams to design, build and operate solar powered houses that are cost efficient, energy efficient, and attractive. The bottom line is that in addition to all the fancy energy management and efficiency and use of environmentally sustainable materials, the houses have to be places you would actually want to live in.

Photo from USDOE Solar Decathlon website.

The first competition was held in 2002. It has occurred biennially in 2005, 2007 and 2009 and will take place once again this year 2011 from September 23 to October 2 on the National Mall in Washington, DC. It is free, open to the public and you can tour all the houses in the competition.

The teams construct their houses on the Mall and set them up so that all the systems are functioning. The houses are up for a week and during this time there are times when you can tour the homes and times when workshops are set up about different energy efficiency and house design and construction topics. Check out the schedule here. During this week the houses get reviewed and judged by the official reviewers and by the end of the week winners are selected.

Photo from USDOE Solar Decathlon website.

If you know your Greek history, "decathlon" was a combined event in athletics consisting of TEN track and field events. The Solar Decathlon carries on that tradition with ten events for this design and building competition. Each contest is worth up to 100 points for a total scoring on 1000 points. Teams are judged on (1) architecture; (2) market appeal; (3) engineering; (4) communications; (5) affordability; (6) comfort zone; (7) hot water; (8) appliances; (9) home entertainment; (10) energy balance. The winning house has to be affordable, attractive and easy to live in; be comfortable and have a healthy indoor environment; supply energy for the house's cooking, cleaning and entertainment needs; provide adequate hot water; and produce as much or more energy than it consumes.

There are 21 teams this year, from the US and New Zealand, Belgium, Canada, China. Since the first competition in 2002, 92 collegiate teams have been involved. When schools apply and are accepted, they then spend two years preparing their designs for the competition. Now there are other Solar Decathlon events in Europe and China too.

I attended this event many years ago - I think I saw the one in 2005 - and it blew me away. It really stuck with me and I have wanted to go again. Well, this year the Byway is finally taking us to DC just for one day, specifically to see this competition. As we are in the process of building a house in the desert that is completely off-grid (no ready made power, water or telecommunications), I am excited to see if we find some creative ideas from the house tours.

People this event is awesome! If you have any interest in home design and building, this is a fascinating event to see. Some of our best and brightest young minds producing new ideas to improve home building and energy use. Twenty-one different teams with houses that you can tour for free! Check out the teams' videos on YouTube introducing their houses. You can access them via Facebook here. Trust me though, seeing the real thing is better.

I hope you get a chance to check it out, but if you can't, MSB will be posting photos and writing about it soon, so stay tuned. And if you can't make it to this year's competition, set your sights to attend the next one in 2013.

Flash Flood

A few days ago in the late afternoon, driving between Pioneertown and Barstow, California, the skies grew dark and it started to rain hard, and we found ourselves driving through a flash flood on and along side the road. The high desert area is prone to flash flooding if it gets a lot of hard, fast rain, due to the soil and washes in the area.

This was the first flash flood I have ever seen and experienced first hand. It was intense. Fortunately the rain passed quickly, we didn't have too far to drive through the flooded areas and the flooding was fairly small. I am grateful for that. From that small flood I could see first hand how scary something like that could become.

Nice little Byway experience and memory though, and I managed to snap a few photos in all the excitement. Do you have a flash flood experience?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Happy Birthday MSB

This past Wednesday, September 14 marks the one year anniversary of My Scenic Byway.

My first entry for MSB was titled Utah Beauty and my first photograph was of Bryce Canyon. We had just taken a quick weekend road trip to southern Utah, my first, to see some sites, and I was blown away by the beauty.

Now I am 12 months and 474 blog entries into this. Reflecting back, it has been a lot of fun and a great creative outlet.

I thought I would focus mostly on writing about my move to Utah, but I've traveled so much over the past year, exploring the broader western US, that the writing quickly expanded. I have a list as long as my arm of blog topics that I haven't written yet - many of them related to recent travel recommendations for food, lodging, sites and routes. I also have many photos and byway experiences to share. Sometimes it is challenging to find the time and creative energy to write all the things I want to write about.

A goal for year 2 is to be more consistent with the number of and content of blog entries; and to finally improve the look of the MSB layout. I have the ideas in my head but do not know how to transfer these to the screen as I am computer graphically challenged. Suggestions are always welcome on how to improve MSB and make it more interesting, useful and reader friendly.

To those of you who follow regularly, those of you who just drop in occasionally, and those of you who randomly land here due to some often strange Google searches, thank you for joining me on the ride.  I love being able to share experiences and sites with friends and fellow travelers from all over this big beautiful world.

More trips on the Byway are coming east coast adventure, Miami Art Basel again, Cancun, many more trips to the Mojave Desert, more work adventures in Liberia and the Republic of Georgia...with helpful trips for travel and photographs.

So stay tuned and get out there and enjoy your Byway.

Sept 14, 2011 - Driving between Pioneertown and Barstow, CA