MISSION: To visit every state and territory in the U.S. For my mission a visit is greater than a stop over; I wish to explore the natural and cultural environments of these areas. Each of these locations has a story to tell, and I want to find it.

As of February 2018 I have visited all 50 states (and Puerto Rico and 2 island in the US Virgin Islands) at least once.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Fried Foods, Huge Veggies, Rides and New Kids = Delaware State Fair

It has been a few years since I have been to a state fair. In fact, the last one that I remember attending was the Alaska State Fair about 4 or 5 years ago. And it left quite the impression – how could it not with cabbages larger than a pre-teen? (Not kidding – I saw one that weighed in at 136 lbs) I have to say that the Delaware State Fair wasn’t even on my radar until the New Kids on the Block announced a stop there… and while it did not make sense to me at the time, I had to take it. Fair equal summer fun and everyone knows I love a good New Kids show!

Off I headed to Harrington, Delaware and its State Fair Grounds… in fact, this place looked oddly similar to the Pumpkin Chuckin location when I went to go see giant gourds flung through the air via air cannons and catapults. * Cue the jokes on Delaware being so small* (Poor DE)

As with any state fair, there is much to see and do. There were quite a few barns to house the animals – it is a requirement for any state fair to have cows, horses, ponies and other assorted domesticated farm animal on hand. And if we did not see them in the barns resting, we saw they in the arena show (horses), or at the races (hello, pig races). Straight out of a FX television show, there were side-freak shows – see the smallest horse on Earth, see the 2 headed lamb, and see the reptile woman (does that qualify as a human or animal?) Had to skip the bearded ladies, the tiny ladies, the snake ladies (wait, why were all these ladies?)

When you think of state fairs, you think of food… right? I think state fairs are synonymous with some of the worst sounding artery-clogging concoctions every dreamt up. I could never wrap my head about the fried stick of butter! I still refuse to try fried Twinkies. I have relented on fried pickles, only because I lived in the South for a very short while and I think I wasn’t allowed out without saying I liked them! Here, I stared at a sign for fried lemonade and ran… why, oh why, in the extreme heat of the day are you going to fry lemonade AND how does that work? In reality the only fried fair food I want is a funnel cake (or some Zeppolis). That funnel cake was fantastic, perfect to share and just enough. The entire day, we tried to make the best fair food choices we could. Barbeque, roasted corn, a roasted turkey leg, sausage sandwich , a fruit smoothie, plain iced teas… lots of tea. Did I say it was HOT? It was a scorcher. And soda was not going to quench our thirsts. Its not easy to avoid the corn dogs, fried gator, the fried Reeces, fried everything really…

You can’t eat all that and go on rides. And I wanted to ride some thrill rides. I was always the thrill seeker as a child; the crazier the ride the better it was. As I have grown up, I may not frequent Six Flags, the Boardwalk, fairs or other parks as often as I used to, but damn if I don’t go straight for them when there are in front of me! So after a sweet ride on the big ferris wheel, it was up the “Freefall” like attraction that dropped you ten stories. My evil laugh came out in full force as we fell; I think my date’s stomach is still up there somewhere! There was a boardwalk style rollercoaster that jerked you around in lady bug carts… a horrible horror house… some swings … and this contraption called the Scorpion that left even me dizzy (after this, my date was out)… spinning in three directions, I could not even “spot” to keep my head on straight. This ride is not for the weak! No more partner in crime after I climbed my way through a Grease style fun house singing “You’re the One That I Want” (you have to sing that as you work the moving stairs), nor when I rode yet another spinner! I can't get enough.

After all that twisting and turning, we headed towards the veggie houses to get out of the sun and into some AC. While there were no huge cabbages, we did see large watermelons, big eggplants and garlics that I would love to have in my kitchen. There were tables that looked like vitamin rainbows. Plates arranged in rows filled with green beans (yum), peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes stretched in rows at least 30 feet long. I was drawn to the beets that remind me of my nana, her garden and her wish for us to like them (I do now Nana, I swear). There was a cannery section where judges taste-tested so many jams, marmalades and gooey goops I am sure they didn’t need to eat for days. The flower sections were just as colorful full of beauty in sight and glorious scents. My eyes, nose, heart, mind (and skin) enjoyed the show and the much needed break from the sun.

The main event of the fair was the concert, held at the race track. I never tire of seeing these guys. And the show that night was no exception. It was the first time I ever had a date to a New Kids show. There is a first time for everything and this was honestly a blast. It was a concert, it was a party, it rained confetti. We danced, we laughed, we sang. How could this not be fun? And I got to watch a newbie marvel at the show, the sound, the energy … and to have someone that had rolled their eyes at your “favorite group” admit that they are amazing live and they had a great time– HA! I win! I never understand why this is a surprise to people. They are still putting out music and honestly, as adults, would I be subjecting myself to something bad and wasting my money? Please – New Kids rule! I made them a new fan – I deserve a hug, a #twug and maybe a dance… man, am I getting greedy!

All in all it was a fabulous day at the fair. Cows, Rides, Funnel Cakes and New Kids, oh my!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Off Montreal for my Birthday (sort of) & to See the New Kids

Every year since I finished law and grad school I try to keep my promise to myself… I want to see and do something new. Most of the time, that means travel. This year, that was going to be a rough promise to keep – I just came off my thorough trip though ND &MN and I have an upcoming trip to Iceland. I could not go nuts. I had toyed with the idea of playing Russian Roulette with the United weekend specials. I played with the idea of a road trip to a Southern locale. But in the end, New Kids and a good friend (and a decent airfare) saved me. Off I went to Montreal Canada!

I have not spent much time in the lands of our northern neighbors. I will be tackling many of her cities and sites once I finish my US state goal. It’s a crying shame I have never been to Toronto. My best friend is in Seattle, yet, we have yet to go to Vancouver. I have lived in and around DC for 15 years but I haven’t visited the Canadian capital of Ottawa. No Winnipeg, no Edmonton, and until this trip, I believed no Montreal. What I have seen of Canada consists of the Niagara Falls area, and St John (and that area above ND & MN – ha). So with a New Kids tour date, a girls trip with a few good friends, and a decent airfare, I hopped a plane to start my Canadian list a little early.

When planning this quick excursion, my mom informed me that I was in Montreal as a baby; I am not counting that! I don’t remember a thing about it. I don’t have pictures (lost to a fire). I am starting fresh. So with a quick internet search, I learned that sites in Montreal are spread out! There isn’t much you can do when you only have a day and a half in a major city… but anyone that knows me knows that I tried to see as much as possible.

My trip good fortune seeped into much of my trip. So while I was there for only a short while, there was much excitement to be had. My trip coincided with the US Womens Soccer Team’s semi-final match. I was there during a very special art exhibit at the Museum of Art, showcasing Rodin (of Thinker fame). My day in the city meant fitting all this in… after an evening out with the girls, we went for a fabulous French breakfast, of fruit and crepes and other yummy goodies. Following our 2 hour eating (and line waiting) extravaganza, we parted ways as I meandered the streets of downtown Montreal, with my trusty map and an IPhone to find some “culture.” With no time, I walked right past what looked to be the 5th Ave of Montreal – a shopper’s mecca. Nope – Keep walking Janine, you have art to stare at and some vibes to soak up. So I walked and come up to the 4 building complex of the Fine Art Museum – with some funky statues (haunted with “The Eye” with its hands for a face), a fantastic Chihuly red and yellow glass sculpture in front and a road maze on the street. Lovin it already! At check-in, I learn about “Metamorphoses: In Rodin’ s Studio” exhibit and how could I pass that up. Sign me up! So with my special pass, I took in hands, feet and limbs of all proportions. Saw Hell’s (Dante’s) Door, The Walking Man, saw the little ladies in the cups aka women in vessels(don’t start me on that), Eve and Meditation and the Thinker. Yeah, we have all seen reproductions of him, and maybe you saw him in Night at the Museum, but after looking at rooms of hands and feet, and limbs intertwined, seeing this enormous man striking that pose” is so grand. I circled the room at least 3 times to go back and see him again… he really looks alive. But the museum was more than Rodin, it was filled with a fantastic collection of Canadian art, a whole section on design, decorative arts & textiles (I loved the stuffed animal chair), and international contemporary art! I spent way too much time in the facility … but it was worth it. It’s a fantastic place with a great layout. The 4 interconnected building separate the collections providing a space between the art styles that allows you to feel each section individually.

Leaving the museum, I wandered the streets trying to figure out my next move. With a concert that evening, I couldn’t just take off free willy nilly… I needed to be sane with my choices. So while I wanted to head to the costume museum and the major city park, they were a 2 mile walk (each way) and it was already 4pm (told you I spent all day in the Art Museum). Instead, I wove around the streets, getting a feel for the city energy… and it was surprisingly American – HA, I stumbled across the bar hosting the USA rally for the World Cup. Flags, face paint, shirts, banners, and crazy head gear were everywhere. It was joyous. I swear team USA fans took over. After enjoying that scene I continued on only to weave some more and find Team USA’s hotel. I joined the crowds waiting for the ladies to board their bus and cheered “I Believe” as they left. So to anyone that thinks that women’s soccer doesn’t have fans, let me know, I have pictures of the blocked street, of hundreds of people lining up to bid them good luck, of little kids (boys and girls) screaming players names… this team were like rock stars to everyone there!

My journey through the streets took me around a mall, and into a city plaza and park. I got serenaded by an elaborate chime sequence, saw a domed cathedral and just missed the pouring rain (of course it rained, I was on a trip!)… I made it back to my hotel to change and head to the arena for the New Kids on the Block… my friends were there, but in the fancy seats… so I was solo concerting this round. Having seen this show a few times already, I knew what to expect, but was no less happy to be there. These guys put on one hell of a show. It’s full of energy, power, excitement, and sexiness. The only thing killing my mood was the strange area set-up and the strictest security I have ever seen. We could not move from our seat area. With a floor seat, I could not dance, nor could I move more than a few feet. There was absolutely no moving towards the stage when one of the guys reached out a hand. Boo-hiss! No worries, I still had an amazing view on the floor of a few key moments in the show, especially Joey’s Twisted dance and the Right Stuff head bob. And, of course, I had boogied my heart out at a few other shows ; they still sounded amazing here. After the show we all met up and went for much needed food (I had not eaten since brunch). On our high from seeing our favorite boy band croon to us for 2 hours, we were giddy… so we flirted unmercifully with the waiter turning him all sorts of shades of red. Poor guy had no idea what he was in for when we walked in. And while the morning was filled with sweets and fruits, dinner served us yummy yummy MEAT. Ribs, steaks and lobsters, oh my. We were not kidding with a fancy girls night out.

I stayed up all night with my friends because at 3:30 am, we left to take me to the airport. Ahh, the glories of a 6am flight… why do I do that? It is cruel and usual punishment. Good thing customs was a simple process because I know I was not working on all cylinders. Just hope that the picture from that machine for processing was destroyed after it was used… cuz, damn, did I look tired.