Day 2 – Underground Exploration

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

Louisville to Mammoth Cave to Gatlinburg

We had to get on the road pretty early today. First, I made the executive decision that we drive by Churchill Downs. We snapped a few photos and then were on our way.

Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs

We had a few cave tours set up at Mammoth Cave National Park which was about two hours away. It was a very winding, scenic drive. As we approached the park, we got to a road that ended “under water” so we had to take a mini ferry across which was a unique experience. We parked the car at the visitors center and got ready for the Historic Cave Tour.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park

We entered the cave at the only natural entrance in the park. It was  a very humbling experience being inside the cave. We learned a lot about who explored the cave and how the first tours were given by slaves. We learned that Native Americans used the cave to gather minerals as a right of passage into manhood. It was crazy just how big some of the spaces were, like one called “Bottomless Pit”. And equally crazy how narrow some of the passages were, such as “Fat Man’s Misery”.

Mammoth Caves

Bottomless Pit

We covered about two miles in two hours and were as low as 310 feet below the Earth’s surface. When the tour was complete we made some sandwiches at the car before doing a little above ground exploration. We hiked a quick one mile trail along the Green River, which was adequately named. It was then time for our second tour of the day. This one was called “Domes and Dripstones”.

Stalactites and Stalagmites

Stalactites and Stalagmites

On this tour we experienced a different section of the cave and saw a lot of unique rock formations. We learned more about the geology of the cave and how it was 100% by water. This tour had a lot of steep steps. At the end we saw stalagmites and stalactites which were really cool. I was glad we did two tours because we got to see and learn about two different sections of the longest cave in the world. After leaving the cave we had to walk across a sponge like surface to clean our boots in order to prevent the spread of white nose, a disease very harmful to bats. We finished getting cleaned up and it was back to the road again. We had a four hour drive to Gatlinburg, TN. We stopped halfway for dinner and to catch a little basketball. I had fried gator, and Lace had brisket, both delicious. Two hours later and we were driving through the ridiculously twisty Gatlinburg. The main strip was littered with flashing lights and tourist attractions. There were multiple Hollywood Wax Museums. I was very surprised at this, definitely not what I had expected. We checked into our hotel and are now ready for bed after a long, but fun day.

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Day 1 – Road Trip Begins

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

Green Bay to Louisville

Road Trippin’

We got a bit of a later start than we had originally planned. Lacey and I are taking advantage of her spring break and road tripping to Kentucky and Tennessee. Today was not too exciting so I will keep this short and sweet. We left Green Bay at 6 a.m. en route to Louisville, KY. We stopped for food at some sketchy chicken place that I can’t even remember the name of. The food was good but the place was pretty dirty. Oh well. After 8 hours of driving (not nearly as boring as I anticipated due to the wonderful company) we were checked into out hotel. We had a big Elite 8 basketball game between Wisconsin and Arizona to watch so we headed to find a tavern. We settled on a spot called “Hoops”. Along the way we drove past the University of Louisville, which had a beautiful campus, and Churchill Downs, site of the Kentucky Derby. We got to the tavern and grabbed a table. Good thing we played the early game because the place filled up rather quickly with Kentucky Wildcat fans. We were the only two people in the place cheering for the Badgers. In fact, we were the only people even paying attention to the game at all it seemed. The Kentucky fans seemed very arrogant. We discussed at length, how much we liked southern accents and how polite it made people seem. The Badgers pulled it out in the end so we went home happy. We went back to the hotel and watched the Notre Dame and Kentucky game before falling asleep. It wouldn’t be long before we were annoyingly awaken. The walls of the hotel were pretty thin, if you know what I mean…

Lazy Last Day

9/28/14

We woke up with one thing on our minds, Packers. Houawah, Ashley and Nate went out to grab some groceries to cook up a nice breakfast for the group. We ate and then headed to a bar to watch the game. On our way to the bar we had a few people yell “Go Pack” out their windows. We even met a couple from Algoma, WI. It’s really cool to see fans all over the country. We grabbed a booth at a bar called “Whiskey” and got settled in for the afternoon. There were fans from all over at this bar so it was fun to hear all the yelling and clapping throughout the day at various different tables for different teams. It was a fun game for the us as the Packers went on to a convincing 38-17 victory over the Bears. Drinks and food were good as well. They seem to throw mac and cheese on everything over here. I got a pulled pork sandwich topped with mac and cheese.  Not sure where this came from, just found it interesting. After the game we hopped on the “T” to the north end and walked around for a bit before heading back to the apartment. We had plans to have a nice dinner for our last meal in Boston. Those plans changed when we all fell asleep at the apartment. We woke up starving and ended up ordering pizza and chilling out the rest of the night. Overall I had a great time in a cool city with awesome people.

Happy Birthday Samuel Adams

9/27/14

Samuel Adams Brewery

We started off the morning by grabbing some brunch a few blocks from Houawah and Ashley’s. After that we hopped on the “T” and headed to Jamaica Place for the Sam Adams Brewery tour. Everybody calls the subway the “T” but nobody knows why. I guess I’ll play along. The brewery tour was free, which is my favorite price. The tour itself was pretty cool. We learned about the process and a lot about Sam Adam’s. Fun fact: It’s Sam Adam’s birthday today, he would have been 292 years old. Sam Adams has won a ton of awards for their beers. The brewery we were at was the original and smallest of the 3 operating breweries. The last part of the tour was everybody’s favorite spot, the tasting room. They passed out 7 oz. sample glasses for us to keep. We got to use said sample glasses to taste a few beers. We started with the original Boston Lager while our guide taught us how judges of beer competitions grade and evaluate beers. After the Boston Lager we moved onto their Oktoberfest, which was delicious. The last one we tried was the 375 Colonial Ale which was brewed to commemorate Boston’s 375th anniversary. We left the tour with our sample glasses feeling good about our life choices. We headed to a pub called “Odoyle”. This pub was Sam Adam’s first account. The first bar to put Sam Adams beer on tap. They had 8 Sam Adams beers on tap when we stopped in, 3 more than the brewery had. They have a cool deal worked out in which you pay $6 for a pint of Sam Adams and you get to keep the glass. Now you can purchase the same pint glass at the Sam Adams Brewery for $8. The biggest difference is the glass at the brewery is empty, while the glass at Odoyle’s has beer in it. No brainer. We had a few pints and some appetizers while sharing plenty of laughs. We dropped off our new glassware at the apartment before heading to the north side of town. We wanted to take a sunset boat tour of the Boston Harbor but arrived too late. We walked around the harbor a bit before heading to Quincy Market. Quincy Market is a really cool market space that’s half indoors and half outdoors. We walked by all sorts of food and craft shops and stands. We watched a street performer juggle while riding a unicycle before grabbing some dinner. Nate, Mark and I had to try a lobster roll as long as we were in Boston. We’d heard so much about them. Basically it was lobster and lettuce on a bun. Simple but delicious. We hopped on the “T” and headed back home and enjoyed a low key night of Fifa. We felt a little bad for Ashley because she’d been watching us play enough video games, we included her in a game or two of cribbage before hitting the hay.

History Class

9/26/14

Pretty slow start to the morning. Once we all got showered and ready for the day we met Houawah for lunch. We walked to his place of employment and then the 5 of us grabbed some sushi. The place we went had a really good lunch deal. After that, Houawah had to get back to work, and Ashley had to start work. Mark, Nate and I took off for a fun, afternoon adventure, with a history lesson along the way. We started the Freedom Trail. A lot of American history took place in Boston. The trail is about a 2.5 mile walk that goes past 16 of the most important places in U.S. history. We started by walking through the cemetery in which, Paul Rivere, John Hancock and Benjamin Franklin’s families bodies are burried. It was right in the middle of the city which was bizarre but pretty neat.

Granary Burrying Ground

Granary Burrying Ground

We also checked out a few significant churches along the trail. I should have prefaced this post by saying that I don’t feel well right now. This may not be funny, or interesting in any way shape or form, so feel free to jump ahead to tomorrow. Anyways, one of the churches we stopped at had the lanterns that let people know how the British were coming. The churches were unique because families would purchase square pews. You’d be face to face with your family, while enjoying mass.

Paul Rivere Statue

Paul Rivere Statue

Halfway through this self guided tour we stopped at “Bell in Hand,” America’s oldest continually operating tavern. We had a pint before finishing the tour. We walked past Paul Rivere’s house. Then, we stopped at the U.S.S. Constitution. It’s the oldest floating military ship. It was really cool to hop on board and  see a ship with as many cannons as this one had. The last stop on our tour was at the monument for the Battle of Bunker Hill. This was a perfect spot to end the tour. We’d heard about it in school, so it was cool to see for ourselves.

Bunker Hill Monument

Bunker Hill Monument

On our walk back to Houawah and Ashley’s apartment we came across a monument dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust. That was a very humbling experience. I forgot to mention, halfway through the Freedom Trail, we stopped and watched a street performer. His name was Snag Boogy and he claims to have been on America’s Got Talent. The 5 of us went out for dinner at a nice Irish Pub. I had to try some authentic clam chowder. Dinner was great and now we’re back at the apartment playing Cards Against Humanity.

Boston – Why You Gotta Be So Rude?

9/25/14

We stayed in Milwaukee last night because we had an early flight out. Our flight left at 8:55 a.m. We got through security, no problem. We ate a quick, and surprisingly delicious breakfast sandwich and we’d be on our way. It was a quick flight, a little less than two hours. Mark and I landed in Boston and were greeted by our buddy Nate who flew in from Minneapolis about an hour before us. Once we grabbed our bags we hopped on a free bus that would take us to the subway station. Ashley was there waiting for us. I’d never been on a subway before today so that was a new experience. We heard a couple young lads playing some string instruments. They were pretty good and played a Bruno Mars song, “Rude.” Little did we know, this would be the soundtrack to our weekend. Ashley showed us around the city a little bit. She and Houawah both say that Boston is rather small but I don’t know if I’m buying that at this point. We walked around town for a while before meeting Houawah back at their place. We chilled for a while before taking off for Fenway. We had tickets to the Red Sox and Rays game. We met our friend Kylie for dinner and a few drinks at a bar near the stadium. Fenway was a a really cool park. They scan your ticket on this street that leads right into the stadium. I can only imagine the partying going on when the Sox are relevant. We found our seats in the right field bleachers. The field seemed so tiny. It was really a cool experience. Boston beat Tampa 11-1. There were two home runs over the Green Monster which was cool to witness in person.

Houawah, Nate, Brian, Mark, Ashley at Fenway

Houawah, Nate, Brian, Mark, Ashley at Fenway

After the game we had a 20 minute walk home. We played some Fifa before bed. For those of you keeping track at home, I only lost once. It’s pretty late so I should get some rest. We have a lot of exploring to do tomorrow.

Time to Reflect

4/1/14

While all the previous posts were written while in New Zealand, in the moment, then typed up much later, this one is real life, right now. I have been home for exactly 3 months. I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on the journey Lacey and I took. Sure, life goes on. I’ve gone back to work and gotten back into a routine. I’ve dropped the fake New Zealand accent that I may or may not have tried to bring back to the states. I am living in a house with two other people, as opposed to a small confined room with up to 10 others. A lot has changed since returning from New Zealand. I am very appreciative of the fact that I was able to embark on such a once in a lifetime experience. So much of what we did will not be duplicated. I never thought I could spent 3 straight weeks with one person in very close quarters. I got to see some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Tongoriro Crossing

Tongoriro Crossing

Te Mata Peak

Te Mata Peak

I also learned about a different culture. I learned about people who care to keep the environment clean. People who are doing their best to help their endangered species become less scarce. I learned more on this trip than I can possibly put into words.

I think the biggest takeaway from this trip is just how small we are. There’s a large number of people who would consider themselves die hard Packer fans. There’s millions of people world wide who don’t know a single rule to the game of football, let alone know who the Green Bay Packers are. In a large world, we are tiny. Until you experience another culture, it might be a hard concept to grasp. The landscape is another thing that really put into perspective just how small we actually are. The mountainous landscape that we came across was bigger than I can describe in words. Until you experience some of those places, you’ll have a hard time understanding just how large they can be. Again, we are tiny. I have talked about how much we traveled in New Zealand and how much we truly got to see. There’s still things in that country that we didn’t get to cover that we would have liked to. Once I got home and took a look at a map, and realized just how small that country is, it’s pretty incredible. New Zealand, on a large scale, is a very small area. At any point in time, you are less than a 2 hour drive from the ocean. That being said, we still didn’t get to see everything we wanted to. I urge anybody reading this to take a look at a map of the world and really take a look at what you have seen. I am willing to bet it’s nothing compared to what is out there. There’s so much to see and so much to do. I encourage anybody who reads this to get out and travel. Explore the world. Explore your home country. Just get out and take a trip. Don’t let money be a reason to keep you from experiencing something as unique as traveling to a foreign land or country. Just get out and explore. I know I hope to continue. This experience has really been a once in a lifetime trip and I hope to have plenty more of those types of experiences.