Sunday, March 28, 2010

BSC in the USA: Team North

Now that we're done with Team South, it's time to head north with the Schafers and the BSC members that matter. (Seriously, how ridiculous is it that the original members all ended up going north? I'm thinking of crying racism, anti-semitism, and everyone-hates-malloryism.) Just to recap really quickly, in the northern RV we have the following people and destinations: Jack Schafer (San Francisco), Jeff Schafer (rock climbing), Dawn (a ghost town), Kristy (baseball stadiums), Claudia (Art Institute of Chicago), Mary Anne (Maynard, Iowa), and Stacey (Seattle). On with the trip!

First stop for Team North is Cleveland so Kristy can visit the stadium where the Indians play (Official Kristy Stadium Count: 1). Who's impressed that I know which baseball team is from Cleveland? Stacey doesn't, and she's actually there. After a lame joke about Cleveland Indians versus Native American Indians and Stacey's statement that basketball players are way hotter than baseball players, we're treated to a long look inside Stacey's head; she tells us she's only met her BF Ethan once and that "coffee shop" is New Yorkese for "diner". That's funny, I thought I could speak New Yorkese. Actually, I think the language she's speaking is McGillese, a language which frightens me more and more with each passing day. Frankly, I'd rather be watching the baseball game which is exactly what Kristy wants to do. Jack (easier than Mr. Schafer) agrees, against the wishes of almost everyone else, and in they go. Fortunately for Stacey, she learns that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland and thus a side trip (that's not so side) is born.

It's 9:53 and therefore time for a rant. They just learned about the Rock Hall? Seriously? First, it's a pretty famous place. Second, way to open a guide book, guys. Did no one ever think to look up fun stuff to do/see in the places they were planning on visiting before ever leaving Stoneybrook? I mean, I'm all for discovering new things along the way but seriously! As we'll see later, it's like no one put any thought into this trip at all.< /rant>

So. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It's a fun place to visit. The building itself is all glassy and modern so that's cool, I guess. The hall of fame part isn't all that extensive but worth visiting. Most of the building is really a museum with a lot of rock and roll history and rotating exhibits. When I was there, one of the exhibits was actually about music and baseball. Too bad Kristy missed that. Anyway, I thought I took pictures of the Rock Hall but I can't find any so I guess I didn't. Oh, well.

The next chapter is Claudia's, leading up to her destination in Chicago. She tells us that so far they've stopped in Cleveland and Detroit. First of all, Detroit? Really? Was that a strictly baseball stadium stop? That puts the Official Kristy Stadium count at 2. Plus, Chicago is pretty much directly west of Cleveland. Detroit is west of Cleveland but also quite a bit north. As in, definitely not on the way. How obnoxious of Kristy.

Meanwhile back in the RV, we learn that Dawn eats wormy apples, Kristy washes her hair with soap, and Mary Anne likes to knit. Except we already knew that last part. We also learn that Stacey is a bitch (only we already knew that too). She yells at Claudia for reading her journal even though Claudia was just looking for a sketchbook. By the way, their fight continues all the way to Washington... The other really annoying person in the RV is Jack who makes jokes/mean comments about Mary Anne's father. Okay, I know Mary Anne's father is married to Jack's ex-wife but you don't do that to a thirteen year-old. Seriously.

So, the next stop is Chicago. There is a stadium stop (Official Count: 3, presumably ignoring the fact that Chicago has two baseball teams) though that actually comes after the visit to the Art Institute. Claudia especially wants to see the Impressionists (as does Mary Anne) which, sure, whatever.

I, too, have been to the Art Institute of Chicago but that was a long time ago. Sorry, no great insights there. Um, it was nice. So, yeah, back to the BSCers. Before leaving Chicago, they ate at Pizzeria Uno. Why, I ate there just last week!

Oh, they ate at the original one. Humph. I guess they also went to Water Tower Place while in Chicago. Apparently mall visits on cross country trips are all the rage, who'da thunk it. I'm pretty sure this mall stuff is mostly a set-up for Mary Anne's storyline so I'll just pretend they aren't idiots for going to malls, which, for the most part are generally fairly similar to each other.
After Chicago/Illinois, the next stop is Milwaukee. Why, you ask? Whose destination was in Wisconsin? Not to mention, the stop after that is Minneapolis. You don't remember someone wanting to go there either, do you? Well, it's time to up the Official Stadium Count to 5. No, not 4, 5. I think it's time for my major Kristy rant!

Okay. Everyone on the trip got to pick one place to visit. One. At this point (maybe halfway across the country?) Kristy has visited FIVE places. THREE of them were out of the way! After Chicago, the next destination should've been Mary Anne's grandmother's house in Maynard, Iowa. Now, I don't know if the real Maynard, Iowa (which does exist) is the same as the one in the book. If so, Maynard looks pretty much west of Milwaukee which isn't so bad. Of course, that's assuming the roads go that way, too (I'm almost positive the Interstates don't) but it still seems like a pain. What the hell, Kristy? Why are you so damn special? Okay, I get that she wants to go to the field where the Brewers play, her stepfamily's name being Brewer and all. But honestly, the whole thing is pretty ridiculous. And Minneapolis is definitely out of the way. Not to mention, there are still more ballparks to come. Sometimes I just hate you, Kristy. < /rant>

All of this driving way the hell out of the way (and all of these visits to malls which Mary Anne can't stand) mean they'll be late getting to Iowa. When Mary Anne calls her grandmother, Granny Baker (not what Mary Anne calls her but I like it) insists on meeting them in Minnesota. Because Iowa is OUT OF THE WAY and because Midwesterners like to drive. Where do they meet? At Granny Baker's suggestion, they all go to the Mall of America! Just what Mary Anne wants!

While I do think it's pretty silly to visit malls all over the country, I would make an exception (hell, I have made an exception, though it wasn't my idea) for the Mall of America. Why? Because it's like the mall to end all malls. Yes, there's an amusement park inside, yes, there is a roller coaster, and yes, the mall is huge. Because I can't find any pictures of the MoA (can you imagine taking pictures of a mall?) I'll offer you a video instead. Yes, I know this takes place in Canada but if you get the context, you'll know that someone wanted to get married at the Mall of America. So I say it fits.

Back to BSCWorld. At the MoA, Dawn gets the award for Most Obnoxious Person Ever by leading everyone to a health food restaurant for lunch. Okay, maybe it's just that I was taught manners so I expect others to act like decent human beings but couldn't they have at least discussed where to eat lunch? Or maybe, just maybe, considering that was Mary Anne's day, she or her grandmother could've picked a place to eat? Instead, they were stuck eating seitan which is apparently supposed to taste like steak but doesn't. We're told as much and I'd like to know how the vegetarians that are telling people to eat this crap even know what steak tastes like. FYI, seitan is wheat gluten which sounds about as appetizing as the sweatshirt I'm wearing.

The best thing that happens in this chapter is Granny Baker telling off Jack for making fun of Richard. The worst is that Mary Anne the Doormat thinks it's her fault they ended up at the MoA even though her grandmother suggested going there. Look, it's a miracle of modern medicine! See the girl without a spine! Mary Anne's logic (or lack of it) is confusing me so I'll just press on.

So Team North skips Iowa. I will therefore skip Iowa as well; my poor loyal readers will just have to wait for my great Iowa stories. I know it's tough. Since I'm skipping Iowa, I'll just offer a few more notes (and pictures!) from earlier in the trip. First, since Mary Anne basically didn't get her destination, I think she's entitled to another. As we find out from the discussion of where to visit in South Dakota, Mary Anne is a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan and would be interested in visiting the LIW site. Okay, first of all, there are quite a few LIW sites out there, so, way to be specific, Lerangis. Second, they weren't all that far from the LIW site in Pepin, Wisconsin. The museum in Pepin, not the actual cabin of which I only have one picture and it contains me so I'm thinking maybe I won't post it:
That's Little House in the Big Woods for any non-fans who may have at least heard of the books. Though, sadly, the Big Woods aren't there any more. But wait, this is a BSC post not a Laura Ingalls Wilder post so I guess I have to move on.

To Minneapolis! Now, I don't remember much of Minneapolis. Walkways between buildings, right? I do remember this unusual sculpture:

(Quick note: some pictures may be backwards. I haven't quite figured out my scanner yet...)

It's part of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Apparently this sculpture has become quite the symbol of Minnesota. If I'm remembering correctly, it doesn't even look out of place in the sculpture garden. By the way, I think the garden is part of or somehow affiliated with the Walker Art Center (it's modern art, FYI). Maybe Claudia would've liked to visit? Or maybe a visit would've resulted in Claudia wearing spoons with glued-on cherries as earrings. Which would've looked completely ridiculous on anyone else.

Next up for the BSC is South Dakota. I'll have to depart from the BSC narrative again for a few minutes in order to talk about how great South Dakota is. Dawn (the current narrator) tells us that, when she thinks of South Dakota, she thinks of nothing. The implication is quite obviously that South Dakota sucks. Which it most certainly does not. Now, I'm generally a city person (not so much in South Dakota) but I think I can appreciate some nature-y stuff now and then and that is something SD has in abundance. The state has the Black Hills, Custer State Park, cool caves, mountains with presidents and Native American chiefs carved into them, and the Badlands!

Plus Wall Drug. Here's a little preview since they do get there:

(Don't worry, I'll use this same exact picture in the next BSC post.)

But that rant's coming. Stay tuned! (Or just tune in. Please?) I'd really hoped to finish Team North in one go but, due to some technical difficulties, that's just not happening. Stopping for now, hopefully back very soon to finish!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

BSC in the USA, Part the Second

Taking a break from my fascinating life, here we finally have the long-awaited second part of BSC in the USA. I'm sorry to say this'll probably be part two of three, mostly because of all the pictures that'll hopefully be coming up. Please cross your fingers or something to make that happen.

When we last visited Team South, the BSCers and Co. were just leaving Graceland. The next stop for them is Dalton, Mississippi, Jessi's destination. I have to say I find it a little hard to be snarky in this chapter. Jessi's destination was the plantation where she thinks her ancestors worked. Apart from the obvious reaction of 'what kind of eleven year old chooses to visit a plantation and what kind of parents does she have?' I kind of have to respect her wanting to learn more about her ancestors. I don't know much about mine, either, and I understand why she'd be curious. However, aside from a warning something along the lines of, "Uh, Jessi, there might be some, uh, difficult stuff there" from her grandmother, I don't think anyone prepared Jessi for what she might find. And the Dalton plantation had a museum with it with some pretty nasty stuff (pictures of lynchings, for example) and yet, no warning that maybe, just maybe the material would be tough for an eleven year old to handle? Not to mention, Jessi, Mal, and Abby were the only kids visiting. Maybe shoulda been a clue.

Anyway, Jessi meets a woman named Annie who's doing research at the plantation. She says her ancestors were slaves there, too and Jessi figures they must be related. In the part of the book I usually skip (the postcards and stuff at the end), Jessi writes to Annie and mentions that they may actually be related. Too bad we don't get Annie's response though in my head it's something along the lines of, "Leave me alone you crazy stalker. We aren't related. Please get a life. Love, Annie." One other thing about Jessi's visit: she didn't seem to know that slaves weren't allowed to read or write. I'm pretty sure I knew that long before sixth grade so learn your history! C'mon Jessi, being black is one of your two personality traits! Own it, girl.

Next stop after Dalton is Lester, Oklahoma, home of Watson's college roommate, Chet Romney. Watson and Chet (the roommate, obvs) hadn't seen each other in ten years and I'm still trying to figure out this timeline. Have they seen each other since college? If not, Watson would only be about 32. If so, well, Chet's wife just had a baby and Watson's kids are pretty young... meh, I don't care. Whatever. It's been a long time and they're visiting. Hooray.

So. Anyway, first up is lunch. A very large lunch. Reading about is making me just a little bit hungry... And then everyone decides to go to the bathroom together (well, this is a Lerangis book).

No, no, not like that (try explaining that to Andrew). Because the BSC can't go five minutes without being involved in something exciting or dangerous, there's a tornado. Of course there is. The Romneys don't have a basement or shelter or anything, despite living in Oklahoma, so it's into the bathroom they go. Something about the plumbing protecting the "young ones". Except Karen. She's given a long metal pole and sent onto the roof to play lightning rod. Unfortunately, that's only in the book in my head.

Picture taken in Oklahoma, of Texas. So, really, it's both states.

After a Wizard of Oz reference or two, the tornado is over and it's time to move on. Next stop: Ten Gallon, Texas home of the Walkin' Tall Rodeo. A quick Google search tells me that neither that place nor that event actually exists. Shame. So anyway, no one likes the rodeo. They last all of five seconds before leaving. Mal, Jessi, and Abby spend the whole time playing soul-sucking, murderer-inducing video games while David Michael rides a mechanical horse. Yup.

This one is all Texas. I must find/post more pictures. These aren't so great.

After that, it's on to New Mexico. Because everyone loves continuity, the travelers go out of their way to visit Zuni, the Native American reservation that had a penpal program with Stoneybrook Elementary. Anyone remember the one with Dawn and the sleepover? I think that was Lerangis's first book! So, yeah, the Zuni school burned down, Dawn rebuilt it single-handedly, and Kristy's family and co. went to collect Dawn's official Lifetime Achievement Award. Don't worry though, Dawn was able to get to Oslo to collect her Nobel Peace Prize.

Moving on. Karen's destination of choice was Four Corners, which, considering the Zuni detour, was no longer on the way. Being the brat that she is, Karen insisted on going there anyway and for once, I kind of don't blame her. Four Corners really is a fun place to visit (I've covered this on the blog before I wish I could find pictures of Four Corners, I know they're in my house somewhere! I may add them later.

The next stop for Team South is the Grand Canyon. This is Elizabeth's (or should I call her Mrs. Brewer) destination, despite Abby's best efforts to get Liz (easier, no?) to change. Why? The Grand Canyon was the favorite destination of Abby's father who was killed just before the family's scheduled Grand Canyon vacation. So naturally that makes it a bit difficult for Abby, though of course she doesn't say anything to anyone. Honestly? The whole thing is kinda sad so I'll focus on my visit to the Grand Canyon instead. Hooray! Everything is about me!

First of all, I visited the canyon in the summer, just like the BSC did. In fact, I'm guessing their visit was in August as mine was. It's my understanding that August tends to be a rainy month in Arizona; it was raining and COLD when I visited the Grand Canyon and, from what I've read/heard, that's pretty normal. Not so in this book.

Since this is all about me, I'll just mention that my experience getting to the canyon was just a little different from theirs. I flew in one of those tiny little planes from Las Vegas and over the canyon. Since I was six years old at the time, I either didn't think to say "HELL NO" or I just didn't have the option. I actually remember those flights pretty well (one there, one back, get it?) I know that each seat on the plane had a radio and I listened to the Spanish station. I think six year old me thought they might play La Bamba. I was wrong. I think I do remember the view out the window; I'm pretty sure it was kind of misty and so the canyon wasn't all that clear. What I know for sure is that I'll never do that again. Are we sick of me talking about me? I'll continue and possibly post pictures later, if I find them.

Ugh, I thought that was it for Team South but it turns out there's one more destination: Andrew's pick, the San Diego Zoo. Poor, forgotten Andrew... So, yeah. The San Diego Zoo. When they get there, who should the Brewers/BSCers run into but the annoying Hoyers from back in Virginia! So, basically, they all visit the zoo together and it's not terribly exciting. Andrew was especially looking forward to the pandas, one of which was due to give birth around the time of their visit. Unfortunately, no one knew that the panda was being sent back to China so that the baby could be native Chinese. Can't risk that panda running for president. While panda cubs have been born at the San Diego Zoo, it does make sense that this one was born in China. So we'll go with that. However, it turns out the panda hadn't left yet so everyone got to see the pandas after all (minus the Hoyer brat who complained and left early with her grandparents). Andrew seemed to not understand the difference between bamboo and chopsticks and I have to say, considering how dumb Andrew usually seems, I'm surprised he even made the whole chopstick connection. Congratulations Andrew, even though you said something stupid you aren't all that dumb.

Hey, I've been to the San Diego Zoo, too! And somewhere I must have pictures... but that's enough for now. I'm fading. And that's basically it for Team South. Northerners coming soon.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Little Bit Petrafied

My poor, neglected blog. I feel like I should post something, just to well, keep things going or something. So a quick (and hopefully painless) post it shall be. How am I going to do that? Well, I've come up with a new method for (some posts). Basically, I went to my "pictures" folder and clicked randomly until I managed to open a picture, taken by me, of a place I've visited. Here's the picture I ended up with:

This picture was taken at Petra, in Jordan. While I do plan to write a whole post on Petra, I'm much too tired for that now. And I have better pictures. So what can I say about this one? Well, not much actually. It's a ruin. It's very cool. It was disgustingly hot when I was there.

Okay, I'll talk about it just a little. If this post ends up not making sense, bear in mind I'm writing it at two in the morning. Petra, for anyone who might not know, is an ancient city in Jordan. It consists of sort of buildings built into rock (including this most famous one, the Treasury, which actually has nothing to do with money):

Recognize that from Indiana Jones?

There are also some more freestanding buildings (like the one above). Um, Petra is in a valley but it's mostly pretty open, if that makes sense. It's very sunny and someone got a bit sunburned and quite dehydrated there.

So, moral of the story? Don't go to Petra in July, if you can help it. If you do, wear a hat. And bring water. Be careful though, water does not stay cold.

Petra is, however, a really neat place to go. I really must try harder.