Sunday, March 20, 2011

Travel stories: Cody, cowboys and riding(our car) into the setting sun

The american cowboy. The very image of the old west. Windburned hardened men under a scorching desert sun. Fighting off hostile indians and bandits from the horseback with smoking guns while driving the herd onward. This hollywood cowboy image is far from the historical truth and the push west was in many ways a dark time in the american history. But for some reason whenever someone mentions the wild west I'm eight years old again, playing cowboys and indians with my dad. When i grew up he would show me all these old great westerns like the magnificent seven and we even visited the Ponderosa ranch where they shot Bonanza on a trip to the states as a kid. So when we heard of the rodeo in Cody I knew we had to go.

The small town of Cody sits high in the rocky mountains in the west of the state of Wyoming. Just east of Yellowstone national park the town got it's name from one William F Cody more known to the world as Buffalo Bill. The town of Cody only holds about 9000 citizens but my guess is that every night that number more than doubles up. Why is that? Because of the Buffalo Bill Cody Stampede Rodeo. Americas oldest rodeo was built in 1919 and every summer they hold rodeos every night. July 1st to 4th they put on their biggest event the Cody Stampede.

 Turns out we were lucky and happened to be in the area on July the 3rd. We were exploring Yellowstone for two nights and staying in West Yellowstone which wasn't ideal for visiting Cody since we had payed in advance for our motel and had to be back the same night. We were strongly advised not drive through the park during night but being so close we just had to go. So we drove up in the evening and ended up being an hour early for the rodeo. We took a pass through town and i tell you this is a really small town. Locals seemed friendly but a bit reserved. We grabbed a bite to eat and then headed to the rodeo. By know the parking lot was packed with cars and we hurried to grab our seats. The rodeo is beautifully located with the rocky mountains as a backdrop and you really feel the tides of history. The show was awesome. It was a bit more patriotic than we Swedes are used to. Patriotism in europe is often expressed in a way that borders to racism but in the U.S this is not the case. Americans in my experience have a strong feeling for their country and they love showing it. We had never attended a rodeo before buy you really don't need to know the rules to enjoy it. We had to cut it short to make drive back before it became too dark but it was so worth it. The drive back however was really scary. We only made it to the park entrance before it was pitch black outside. Driving through a national park in utter darkness with no street lights whatsoever was scary. You know that there are wild animals like buffalos and grizzly everywhere so we had to snail our way through the park. A drive that took us 1 hour on the way there took us 3 on the way back. If visiting the rodeo I would recommend staying in one of the many motels in Cody instead. But if your planning on going there on the Cody Stampede, make sure to book early!

Cody Video

Friday, March 18, 2011

Winters last gasp

video


Here we go again! We've had a few really warm weeks and you really felt spring was on the way but this is what it looks like outside our window. Typical Swedish weather, warm one day and snowing the next. What to do? Well us Swedes are pretty used to it. Sopranos on DVD and a long breakfast made my day A-OK! Going out later but before I leave I'm gonna show off our snow globe collection in honor of our beautiful spring weather right now. We're trying to buy one in every city or state we really like. Unfortunately they don't all survive the flights back. These are the ones we have so far.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Seattle video

Travel stories: The S in Seattle stands for Sounders!

So here we go for my second travel story. After doing my first one on Portland I guess I owe it to my Seattle friends to do them next to end the rivalry. We did Seattle as our next stop right after our stop in Portland last year. The same guy who hooked us up with his friends over there was now letting us stay in his flat with himself and his roomie.

Seattle is the biggest city in the state of Washington on the american west coast. With roughly half a million citizens it's equal to Portland but the city feels bigger and more wide spread. Seattle has a lot of Swedish history and I can really understand why, the weather is really similar to Sweden at least summer time. Another thing Seattle is famous for is it's coffee. Now us Swedes take our coffee seriously. We think the coffee served mostly throughout the states is more like brown tea. Coffee in my opinion should be black as midnight on a moonless night as stated by the famous agent Cooper. Now the further north you go up the west coast the better the coffee you get. In Seattle it's pretty damn close to what we drink over here. Maybe not a surprise since Starbucks hails from Seattle.

So we arrive at our friends house whom will now be referred to as T he lives with his friend D in the Fremont area of Seattle. Right away walking in to their flat i knew this is gonna be super. T & D are the most chilled out guys ever. Having met with T the spring before in Sweden I already knew he was a great guy. The fun thing with T is that in the same way I'm obsessed with the U.S and american culture he's very passionate about Sweden where he actually lived for awhile and learned to speak Swedish. Anyways, after unloading or bags in the bachelor pad we headed down the street to get to know our new friends over a few pints. Buckaroo tavern is one of Seattles oldest dive bars and me and M just love dive bars. They have a good 25 different beer on tap and the interior has seen it's better days for sure, but that only adds to the charm. They have an outdoor patio facing Fremont ave where we spent a few hours getting introduced and taking in the atmosphere. When we were as the wonderful untranslatable Swedish expression  "a bit round under the feet" we headed down to the more central parts of the Fremont area to see some of T & D's friends perform at the High Dive. The venue has shows pretty much every day of the week and is a perfect place to pick up on the local scene.

Early next morning we were woke up early by T to see the world cup game and what a way to wake up! T is the inventor of the fabulous drink the manmosa! The manmosa is simply a mimosa when drunk by men, a drink made of champagne mixed with OJ. Champagne is in Europe strongly regulated and can only be grown in certain parts of the Champagne district in france thus earning the right to put the name Champagne on the label. In the US however that does not seem to be the case and you can much to our amusement buy cooking champagne at the local food store for 8 dollars. So there we are enjoying the play offs of the world cup and drinking manmosas in the morning. Now that's vacation! T had to go to work so we spent the day exploring Fremont. We went for breakfast at Roxy's Diner after having it recommended to us by T & his friends. This place is just awesome. The menu is packed with great diner food and a good selection of vegetarian dishes. All to affordable prices. They also have a breakfast cocktail menu. Gotta love it! Well fed we hit the streets. Fremont is packed with small ma & pa shops as well as some great vintage shops where the best one was probably Fremont Vintage Mall. I'm drawn to make a comparison with Portland and the Mississippi area but it's not quite fare to either of them and Fremont doesn't have that hipster feeling you sometimes feel in Portland, it's more laid back.

After resting a bit T took us down to the Ballard district to have diner with him and his girlfriend M. The Ballard district has a strong Scandinavian heritage and is also where if you are lucky you might find the crews from The Deadliest Catch show when they are not out fishing crabs. After testing out some fine local microbrew that I'm sorry I cant recall the names of(think one was called Immortal IPA) T & M  took us to La Carta De Oaxaca. We told them we loved Mexican food which in the US is the best ever food to eat after all the bars are closed, but this was Mexican fine dining. If i remember right dedicated to a certain area in Mexico called Oaxaca. The food was gorgeous. Not only regarding to taste but even in presentation. We sat at their outdoor heated patio and had some nice margaritas with our enchiladas and what not. Sorry that i cant remember (might be the amounts of tequila) but i think it was rather affordable. Not cheap but good value in reference to the quality of the food. We continued to a bar with pool tables that i cant remember the name of but if anyone recognize the place from the photo please let me know! We had microbrew by the pitcher and it was an awesome night!

Next day which was our last we finally headed downtown to the touristy stuff. Our first stop was Pike place market and we grabbed the bus there. I can recommend to anyone traveling in Seattle to go by bus. Cheap, on time & safe. Also if you are traveling within the city center it's also free. Don't be afraid to ask people in the street to help you find the right station. People over all in Seattle are vey friendly. Pike place market was maybe not what we expected like most tourist traps usually are. Go there, take a photo and move on is my suggestion. Right by it lies the first ever Starbucks which was fun to see since its our place of comfort and good coffee in the US(bare in mind we don't have Starbucks in Sweden yet) but we soon abandoned downtown and headed for the gay area of Seattle, Capitol Hill. The reason I even say the gay area is that me & M have realized whenever there is a gay area in a city it's usually one of the most liberal and friendly areas. Now we were only there daytime but we did some great shopping and I really felt that if given more time I would wanna check out the nightlife there. Coming back to T & D we got ready for the big night. T is a huge football fan(Americans read soccer) and as it happened his favorite team the Seattle Sounders had recently signed one of Sweden's top players Fredrik Ljungberg. They were playing this night so we headed to a sports bar near Fremont to watch the game. The fun thing about American football(again read soccer) fans are that they are so passionate and they love to drink and sing their anthems but there is no violence! In europe the violence is kinda taking over the real sport. Myself, who was once caught up in a derby in Glasgow, Scotland between Celtic & Rangers love this approach to the game. Drink, sing and have fun. Wish we could adopt that here! Couldn't have been a better way to end our fabulous stay in Seattle. The sounders won, we had a great time and ended up drinking all night in some club downtown.

Before we left the next day we visited T's workplace. He works in a tourist shop and I tell you good people. This place is the best tourist shop I've so far been to. If your an aspiring globetrotter as myself and ever hit Seattle, visit this place!!! They have everything! Are you lucky enough T will be working and this kid will hook you up with whatever you wanna know about traveling. I'll leave you with their website if you're interested and a salute to Seattle in form of a video. Seattle! I will see you again!
Wide World Travel Store

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday night beer sampling

OK i know this is supposed to be a blog about traveling but at the rate i'm posting entries at the time, I need to write about other stuff as well or this will be a short lived blog. I have a huge interest in beer! I work in a bar that usually have 50 - 80 different sorts of beer from all over the world and its my job to keep updated. It's a hard job but someones gotta do it. For tonights sample i've chosen 3 different beer. 2 swedes and a Scot.

OppigÄrds Spring Ale, 4,9 %
OppigÄrds is a swedish brewery from the swedish province Dalarna. They've won a lot of market lately and have some exciting products. This is the first time I try their spring ale and I have high hopes since we're bringing in some of their beer to my work place soon. I pour it up and right away I smell birch tree and a hint of fresh cut grass. I take a zip and close my eyes to try to pick up on the flavors and right away I have a Marcel Proust kind of moment. In a novel he describes how while having a piece of madeleine cake it brings him straight back to childhood memories. In the same way I get that essence of Swedish spring. For a country that experience winter for most of the year spring in Sweden is a wonderful thing. I start thinking of those childhood springs. The sun in your face and the world in bloom. I almost forget what I'm doing so one more zip and what first hits me is bitter hops. Not in excess but a well balanced flavor. It is rather weak in alcohol so it is a rather mild taste. I'm guessing American hops like cascade so I read the label to see what i can find out and it is as suspected an American hop, but not cascade as I first thought, it's Chinook. A hop described to have a distinct grapefruit flavor which after another zip becomes rather obvious as always when something is pointed out to you. All in all a great beer for a warm spring night rather mild in it's taste and I look forward to having it again.

Brew Dog Punk I.P.A, 6 %
This is not the first time i try this Scottish I.P.A. I.P.A's or India pale ales as they are called are really popular in Sweden at the time and American I.P.A's in particular. On the label they make a bold statement that this is not for the average consumer and they don't care if you like it or not and that you can go back to drinking your bland lagers. So with this rather threatening challenge I pour away. It has a nice bright amber color but as I lean in for the aroma I'm a bit disappointed. I smell barely nothing at all maybe a hint of citrus and apricots. The taste however is aggressive. Strong hoppy flavors with a good amount of alcohol to help them out. A rather long finish with hints of pine-needle. I can see that they have gone with the American concepts but in a typical British way it's still well balanced and not to out there. This is a good beer but it doesn't really live up to it's reputation. If aggressive I.P.A's are what you desire there are better alternatives on the market but having said that it is still worth trying out.

Spendrups Bright Brew, 5,0%
Spendrup is one of Sweden's biggest Breweries and up to about ten years ago Swedish lagers like the ones Spendrup market was pretty much what everyone drank. The bright brew is marketed as a GI beer as it is low in Carbons. Most beer lovers would probably look at this beer in discontent but i tell you this is a great beer! In the same way that Corona and Sol are the perfect vacation beers, this is a cheap alternative. It's light and fresh in aroma and taste with hints of citrus. This beer is not for a great taste experience but is a great refresher that works perfect with spicy food. Like it's mexican buddies this baby goes great with a slice of lime. For me and M this beer is synonymous with our trip planning nights and give us that feeling of being pool side Las Vegas with a Bud Lime in hand.



Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hidden gems: Peggy Sue's 50's Diner

Ever just pulled of the highway looking for any diner or restaurant possibly open, or have you ever randomly walked down an alley and walked in to a place with an open sign not knowing what to expect? More then often you find something just OK or if you're unlucky something really bad. But once in a blue moon you find a place that exceeds anything you could have ever imagined. Be it a place to eat, a motel you find when you're so tired you cant keep your eyes open or a shop you walked in to out of plain curiosity. This is the essence of traveling, to explore and find places you never knew existed. These golden spots is what I call a hidden gem.

Back in our first road trip of 2006 while doing an exhausting but beautiful drive from Grand Canyons south rim towards San Diego we thought it would be a nice leg stretcher to stop and check out the Calico Ghost Town. An old deserted mining town turned into a tourist attraction located off the I-15 near Barstow, CA. After enjoying Calico which I might write more of in the future we were pretty hungry and drove into the nearby small town of Yermo. And there it was! This theme park of a diner sprung out of the Mojave desert.

Peggy Sue's was originally built in 1954 using railroad ties and mortars from the nearby Union Pacific rail yard. For reasons unknown to me it was closed for a long period only to be re-opened in 1987 with the owners trying to restore it to it's original state.

Now the idea of a 50's style diner is not at all an unique concept in the U.S. Many americans seem to look back at this era as an unequaled time of happiness and prosperity. However, the owners have gone to a great length to make this place feel genuine. And walking into the diner you feel as you have indeed traveled back in time. All the waitresses are dressed in authentic uniforms and the interior design is spot on! The menu sports a good variety of hamburgers and grilled sandwiches and with time typical deserts such as cherry pies and root beer floats. Portions are hearty and the service is flawless. I had a wonderful Veggie-burger and M had an enormous sallad. We actually enjoyed our stay so much that we returned to the place in our last road trip of 2010. One of the best road trips for many is the drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas or the other way around and Peggy Sue's makes a perfect pit stop almost halfway in between the two. I would say it is a sin not to stop by if you get the chance.

For more information visit http://www.peggysuesdiner.com



Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A state of mind

On our vey first road trip in 2007 we were driving through Arizona on an old part of the original route 66, the once famous "mother road stretching all the way from Chicago to Los Angeles. We stopped at a gas station/ souvenir shop and found these fridge magnets. I'm not saying this is the only reason but somewhere from this moment was born the idea to visit every state in the U.S, a quest which has kept us coming back year after year. At first we bought a new magnet after we visited a state but since they seem to get harder and harder to find we just ordered them all of the web. We only count the states we've actually spent some time in not the ones we say just changed flights in or flew over. So the states we've visited so far are:

  • California                            
  • Arizona
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Washington
  • Idaho
  • Montana
  • Utah
  • Colorado
  • New Mexico
  • Wyoming
  • Texas
  • Louisiana
  • Tennessee
  • Mississippi
  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • New Jersey
  • New York

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Travel stories: Peddling it out in Portland

As a tourist in a foreign country there's always that feeling that you only get to scratch the surface. Staying in hotels, taking guided tours and consulting your travel guide can give you fantastic experiences, but does it show you the true face of that place your visiting? When planning our last trip to the american west coast we discussed this a lot. Having three road trips behind us we felt we wanted to not only see all these places but also meet the people who live there. 


While planning for the trip in the spring of 2010 I got to know a guy from Seattle. He suggested when hearing we were heading to Portland to contact an old friend of him who lives there. Initially I e-mailed T to get some ideas about what area to stay in Portland, T replied with a good number of places to stay but also invited us to stay in his house with him and his girlfriend A. We felt a bit intrusive at first but this was the possibility we've been waiting for so we gladly accepted their invitation.


Portland is the largest city in the state of Oregon, located in the north west of the U.S.A. It has a population of roughly half a million and has been referred to as one of the most environmentally friendly cities of the world. 


We arrived in Portland at the end of June on a perfect summer day. T & A set us up with a great directions on how to find their house which didn't stop us from getting lost at least once on our way there. We were welcomed with open arms and to this day I'm still amazed that their are people like them who like it was the most natural thing in the world opened there home to us two worn down travelers with bags enough to fill an entire room in their apartment. T & A live in a great apartment in a two story house with a awesome back garden in north east Portland. 




Back to the story then, T & A have a huge interest in design which showed in their house. Honestly one of the coolest homes I've ever  been to. They had prepared a barbecue for us with Veggie-patties ( me & M are Vegetarians) which was awesome! When Swedes think about american life we picture barbecues with neighbors drinking budweisers and talking football. Except for the football this was pretty spot on. Since T like me is a nerd when it comes to tech stuff I got a chance to feel out the Ipad which wasn't on sale in Sweden yet at the time. After dinner we went out with T for beer in the Mississippi area. I sent T an e-mail asking for the story of the Mississippi area and his answer was so good that i'll quote him directly. 


"Yup, the mississippi ave area is officially the Boise neighborhood in North Portland. It has a pretty awesome history as it was the main "black" neighborhood in the city (portland is probably the whitest city in america) - so it has seen the full spectrum of american history in a lot of ways...from being the hub of the civil rights movement in Portland to being the center of the jazz and blues explosion in the 50's and 60's to finally being the one place in town you really didn't want to go to in the 80's and 90's for fear of being chased out by the gangs and drug dealers. Now the neighborhood is filled with white yuppies like myself, but the community infrastructure has remained intact so there is a good mix of races and cultures here. "


The area is great. Myself growing up in the alternative scene I found myself right at home among all these tattooed bohemian people roaming around the main street Mississippi Ave. Our first stop was a crowded bar called Moloko. Kinda with a trendy hipster vibe but in a chilled out way. Nice staff that also knew their way around mixing cocktails. They also had a nice indoor patio. Next stop was a german  style bar called Prost. I found this place really cool cause they served almost the exact beer types which we serve in the bar i work in Stockholm. Another must see if you're in the area is Amnesia brewery. A micro brewery right in the mississippi area with a great variety of standard as well as seasonal beer. I'm picky when i come to beer but the seasonal I.P.A i had was near perfection. They also have a great outdoor patio where the serve barbecue bar food. All in all the mississippi area is a fantastic blend of shops, coffee shops, bars and restaurants with a great laid back vibe. If coming to Portland I would strongly suggest making this area your priority and even try to find a hotel in the area. 


Next day we explored on our own for awhile until T finished work. After that he set us up with bikes and took us on a guided tour to downtown Portland. M was a bit worried cause she's not a big fan of bike riding but this fear was soon overcome much to the fact that Portland is one of the most bike friendly towns I've ever been to. It actually seemed like more people where riding bikes then in cars. After an amazing tour we crossed over the Willamette river to downtown. We started of in the Pearl District. Old factories and warehouses turned into trendy shops and boutiques. We walked around for a good while in downtown and though it is a beautiful city surrounded by high mountains, downtown pretty much reminds me of a typical american city and didn't really do it as much for me. Maybe because i was so blown away by the Mississippi area. A cool stop however was Ground Kontrol, a barcade sporting all those awesome arcade games from the eighties. I could have stayed for hours but at least i got to play an old star wars favorite. This is the best idea ever. How can there not be a barcade in every town in the world?


We had a great few days with T & A and I cant start to explain how grateful i am to them for the experience they gave us. I could go on forever writing about Portland but this is already a too long entry. I'll leave you with one last tip a vintage shop we visited while driving out of Portland thanx to A. Vintage Pink is a awesome vintage shop with everything you can think of from the 50's to the 80's. We got some really cool stuff that might be another entry in this blog.


Now to finish this off i'll share my homemade music video tribute to Portland. Starring T on guitar and vocals!

Portland video

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A present from the past

One thing about me is that I love technology! Take me to an electronics shop and I'm like a kid in a candy store. This has led to an increasing amount of cool designer gadgets that were meant to improve our everyday life but are more likely to end up in the back of one of our over full cupboards in our 1 room apartment. How great isn't it then when something turns up that you just know will be used. M is a big fan of photography and a talented photographer, and I knew she missed using her old polaroid camera which we no longer can find film for. So imagine my joy when surfing on one of my favorite Swedish web shops Cool stuff finding this all new camera from Polaroid, the Polaroid 300. Nothing fancy like USB-connections or flash memory just your typical polaroid in a new design and with affordable film.

Now this was supposed to be a christmas present for M right? Well the reason I'm making an entry about it today is that it only arrived here two days ago. You see i wasn't the only one thinking this would be the ultimate x-mas gift so this baby sold out in all of Sweden in no time. Now I'm a stubborn guy and also lazy. If I have found what I think is the perfect gift I don't wanna have to go looking for something else. So i searched wide and far and finally found one at Amazon. Only problem is that Amazon doesn't ship electronics overseas to Sweden. At this point i was ready to give up when opportunity showed itself.

A friend of M lets call her C is studying in New York but was coming home to Stockholm for Christmas. I only had a few days to get it delivered so me and C got to work exchanging adress and all that stuff, and i also payed for two-day delivery. Problem is that I thought it worked like in Sweden that a package will reach a pickup point and you can pick it up whenever you want. Apparently that is not the case. Delivery is to your adress and can be anytime during the day. With C in final week of her school that just didn't work. So the package never came in time and C came home for christmas and I abandoned any hope of seeing the damn thing at all. Well much to our surprise when C went back for this semester  the package was still sitting right outside her door. So one expensive fed ex delivery it finally arrived here just in time for M's birthday. The test photo shows our pet the porcelain dog Strupsi we bought at a flee market in Berlin. That however... is a different story.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The journey is part of the goal
















This will be my first blog entry in a blog about road trips, my one true passion in life. I'm a 31 year old Bartender living in Stockholm, Sweden with my wife M. The reason I'm writing in english instead of Swedish if anyone would wonder is because we've made some good friends and relations on our trips and I want this to be available for them as well. Also I'm hoping to get to know new people for trips to come and this is as good a way as any.

So far me and M have completed 4 road trips in the U.S in as many summers. We've visited 20 out of 50 states and on our last trip alone we went over 4000 miles. We've seen deserts, redwood forests, coasts, swamps and deserts. We've visited huge metropoles and sleepy southern villages. We live with our road trips all through the year and in our long cold(and dark) Swedish winters it is sometimes what keep us going. This year we are doing the east coast for a month. From New York in the north to Key West in the south. We started planning for this trip pretty much already on the last days of our last trip and it's become a hobby in our spare time to read up on what to see on our upcoming trips. The book in The top left corner has survived for all the road trips so far even if it's starting to fall apart. The guide that is called eyewitness guides in english is excellent to get a visual image of where you are going even if they cater a bit to an older target audience. Lonely planet is great for finding those not so obvious places and even make you want to see stuff you probably wouldn't see otherwise. Even though you can find all the information you need in abundance on the web nowadays theres still a certain feel to a travel book that I cant get from a computer.  For some reason my heart always beats a little bit faster whenever I hold one and i get an urge to possess it if I don't already have it.