Posts by Country

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Historical Boston

This morning the Green Tortoise dropped off a few passengers while passing through New York and we moved on for breakfast in Connecticut. 

After some Denny's the journey continued and historic Boston was soon on the horizon. Upon our arrival we went to the local international hostel and I forgot my hammock on the bus... fortunately I did remember my sleeping bag deposit. Without reservations the plan was to sleep at the airport, but seeing as the hostel had cancellations this was not necessary. In the hostel a friendly Aussie named Rob suggested joining him on a ghost tour. Having never been on a ghost tour it seemed an interesting opportunity. After meeting up with his friend Shelly from England and taking the metro down to the Boston Commons, the $15 ghoul quest began. At the beginning the guide scoped out the skeptics and asked us in bewilderment, “so... why are you here?” 

The group started at a standard cemetery and continued to other “haunted” locations. After meandering around town listening to a fair number of the guide's tales of the supernatural, we arrived at the original hotel from the movie “1408." After the tour's finale it was time for some bar hopping. A bar called Bukowskis, and a couple other places that Rob had discovered from his prior nights running around town, each had different personalities and offered a range of interesting beverages.

Today I left early to do the Freedom Trail. On the metro Coral and Jade were on their way to see Harvard and, after parting ways with them, the nearest stop on the Freedom Trail was near one of the visitor centers. After getting a proper guide map I followed a line of brick which lead the way to the first landmark, the old statehouse. After a couple stops along the way a local suggested Als Subs as a good place to get a value deal on food. Sure enough, they offered a delicious foot long BBQ chicken sub for only $6! On my way down the trail I finished the sub and dropped into a pub advertising $2 drinks. At the end of the trail a nearby metro went straight to the airport and from there the journey continued to Atlanta and finished in Seattle.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

DC: Our Nation's Capitol

Today the Green Tortoise arrived in the District of Columbia where it was raining indefinitely. After a tumultuous bustle off the bus while gathering bags and converting the front in the process we made our way out of Union Station. First stop, our nations capitol building. Unfortunately, the baggage restrictions make entering a bit of a challenge if you enjoy water, food or anything else that they think is dangerous. Luckily a lady out front was able to suggest a strip of restaurants down Pennsylvania Ave.  One of them, Le Bon Cafe, is recommended in the city's visitor guide; they have very enjoyably rich and buttery french toast and pastries. Following breakfast was a long list of uniquely rich historic landmarks including:  the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court, the Shakespeare Library, the National Botanic Garden, a couple art galleries, and the National History Museum where I ran into Mara. We went to the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the White House. 
Lincoln Memorial and reflecting pool (under construction)
After a full day of visiting national icons it was time to return to Union station where a plethora of culinary options (many very familiar) greet hungry site seers. Not much later, many of the passengers arrived back at the bus and decided to end the day together at Kelly’s Irish Pub.

All Photos

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

St Andrews & Great Smokys

Today Green Tortoise arrived at St Andrews Beach in Florida. After breakfast we went to see some gators, real ones. Playing with fate didn't end with the gators as a hurricane had just passed and the rip tides were stronger than usual. Though, even with planes flying overhead dragging warnings to "stay out of the water," body surfing in those warm Florida waves was just irresistible. 
After a day of riding 10ft waves and almost getting ran over by surfers we watched as the kite surfers came and went and the sun dropped beneath the horizon.

Today we went on another hike, this time in the Great Smoky Mountains. After breakfast a few of us set out hiking to the falls and found the Great Smoky Mountains seemed to be just that, smokey. The humidity is so high that it appears smokey like during a forest fire - and yes, I have actually been in a forest fire before, it's not recommended. Back at the bus we dried off and soon we arrived in Gatlinburg where we swam at the public pool there and  took advantage of much needed showers. After dinner I went to use the public restrooms only to find out that they had no doors. I used them anyways and even though I was told “nobody will look”… everybody looks. Back on the bus “the miracle” was performed and everyone went to sleep.

Monday, September 5, 2011

New Orleans, LA

Today plans to avoid New Orleans changed and after arriving we all went to the main cafe (Du Mont) for their famous Beignets. Another place was less crowded though and offered a real breakfast of eggs, sausage, grits and toast for only $5. After breakfast Paul and I went to look at a couple museums but they were pretty much all closed. The French Market was open though and the free ferry over to Algiers Point was running. 
French Market
The cemeteries in New Orleans are also something to see - they have above ground graves (due to flooding) that you can see if you arrive before 3p. At one point I removed my sandals because they were rubbing my feet raw, something to keep in mind when choosing footwear. Though, if you watch where you step you may just find $10 laying on the ground. 
For genuine (and very affordable) Cajun food one of the drivers, Dave, recommended Verti Mart. The gumbo, mashed potatoes, and mac & cheese are fantastic and a pint of each (a lot of food!) including milk is only $14. After seeing the sites and eating all that good food there was only one thing left to do, bar hopping. One of the bars screamed “new people!” every time people came in and another had a guy wearing a ribbed metal jacket that he played with drum sticks. At a bar called “13" Paul recommended a local favorite from his home of Newcastle, England called Newcastle Brown Ale. Apparently this brew is very addictive and has resulted in a high rate of alcoholism back home.
Popular concept in Tennessee & Louisiana apparently
At the end of the night many of us ended up at Check Point Charlie's where we enjoyed a local drink called the “Hurricane” and some pretty entertaining karaoke.

Sunday, September 4, 2011



Quirky little stop over in Little Rock, AK

Graceland - Memphis, Tennessee: home of the home, cars and jets of Elvis Presley. 
Jungle Room

A few toys in a room full of cars

After checking out the home, cars, planes and many other items from the life of “the King” we headed over to Beale Street for some Cajun cooking. Later, at one of many live street performances, we enjoyed 32 oz value drinks and listened to some rather interesting music.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

St Elena Canyon & Austin, TX

Today the group made eggs and crumpets for breakfast and we headed for the border. The Rio Grande is a natural border between the US and Mexico and it runs through the Santa Elena Canyon. It is also a place where Green Tortoise takes passengers to have an all out mud fight. The mud can be scooped up like snow and chucked at the victim of your choice and after everyone is thoroughly bathed in sludge it's just a quick swim in the "rio" and you're all clean. 

All Clean
The next major stop after the Rio Grande was to be Austin, but the Tortoise was stopped early at a checkpoint that nobody from the trip will forget…as everyone was woken up to get off the bus (including Americans) a couple of unprepared passengers were getting threatened with jail time and/or a fee for not having their passports available. Also, after stepping off the bus we noticed a stack of bags, a stack of SEVEN ONE POUND BAGS of Marijuana belonging to an Oregonian passenger named Luke. After Luke was taken away in cuffs some dogs had to sniff out the bus a bit so a few of us went with the guards to use the jail bathroom. While they were patting us down a job inquiry seemed prudent - turns out you can start at $75k/year as a border guard if you have your bachelors degree!

Arriving in Austin most headed to “Austin Java” for breakfast where they serve eggs, “taters,” and “chorizo" aka sausage. After breakfast everyone hired bikes and I figured it might be a neat idea to try a tandem. It was interesting, but more of a hassle than anything. If the person steering stands up it throws the rear rider off balance so going uphill was a bit of a pain.
Not for everyone..

Lots of these cows all over Austin
The first place we stopped was the Texas State Capitol. Something many don't know is that the capitol was actually moved from Houston to Austin in 1839, so if you thought the capitol was in Houston, like many do, then you're half right.


At the university the LBJ Museum and Library have many interesting exhibits. Many artifacts are held from the life and presidency of Lyndon Baynes Johnson including documentation from the liberal “hippie” movements of the 60s, gifts given to the white house by people from “all walks of life,” and an animatronic LBJ robot telling jokes with his recorded voice. 

Another enjoyable stop in Austin is Amy’s Ice Cream; it's kinda like cold stone but with flying ice cream tricks instead of jaded song singing. After cooling off there a bit Whole Foods is right across the street where you can get a good meal for a reasonable price. Finally, Barton Springs is THE place in Austin to go for a swim; their giant outdoor pool/spring is refreshing and a good place to meet some locals like a guy named Joel (hoe-el). According to Joel various laws govern different counties in Texas and can be very distinct and even conflicting from county to county. If it's Summer time you also want to make sure you don't miss the flight of the largest urban bat colony in North America which happens at about 8p. Unfortunately, after I convinced the Tortoise drivers to delay the departure so that the group could see it, Claude was the only one of us that actually went

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Big Bend & Terlingua, TX

This morning the group awoke as we entered the valley of Big Bend. After breakfast everyone set out to see “The Window” and “Oak Springs.” 

One of our group came back running and singing loudly. Apparenly, he had seen a bear and was being loud so that it would know to avoid him. A few other confirmed the sighting later on. After the hike the next stop was the “ghost town” of Terlingua where an old mine shaft and some crumbling buildings attract passersby to explore and purchase souvenirs. 

After looking around we all went to set up camp down the road near a bar called La Kiva. 

At La Kiva they offer an array of food and beverage in a cool naturalistic underground cave. La Kiva is also home to a strange eclectic skeleton pieced together from an assortment of random animal bones. 

Later, one of the drivers, Will, showed me a secret passage under the bar through a hidden door. On the floor as you pass through is a bunch of theater seats and over on the wall you can exit through a small door with hinges on top. 

After closing everyone went back to the bus and looked for constellations in the clear night sky. Later a few of us were sleeping in the “cuddle puddle” as a strange growling creature approached. Lying still in hopes that someone else would get eaten first seemed a good plan because as they say, "I don't have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you."

As I waited with my eyes shut the growling got louder and I felt the animal walking over our tarp as it stepped over us and then as quickly as it came it was gone… Chupacabra?