Happy Holidays. All of Them.

Hello!!! Sorry we’ve been out of touch for so long. Living in a hotel can be (among other things) uneventful. We had to wait to accumulate enough stuff to post about. Also, up until about a week ago, we couldn’t find the charger for our camera. So here goes:

We’re still living in the hotel in Indy.  Jennifer signed up to work through January so that we can fill the coffers enough to stay in St. John as long as possible. Also…Coachese is ready!!! We picked him up from the mechanic and drove him here from St. Louis last month. He’s currently a main attraction in the parking lot behind the hotel. He’s running well but has no heat so a winter camping trip is not in the cards. Plus, let’s be honest. The election kind of  knocked the wind out our urge to tour more of the USA right now. And we’re not sure how well Coachese would do in long-term storage so, wait for it, we’re thinking about selling him. I know. You’re shocked. I don’t really want to talk about it. Nothing is final.

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Moving on, other bright spots of the past couple of months include a roadtrip we took last week which we nicknamed, in advance, “vaycaca”, a loving mashup of vacation and poop. Basically, Jennifer took a week off so that we could drive a rental car from Indianapolis to Philadelphia for her sister’s daughter’s first birthday (Happy Birthday V!), then on to Delaware to finally close out our storage unit (Never get a storage unit. It’s like a reverse pawnshop. You give them money and your stuff and then you pay and pay and end up donating all your shit anyway), then back to Pennsylvania for one night, then on to DC to spend Hanukkah and Christmas with my family, then back to Indianapolis. All in a week. You can probably see how this seemed like a heaping pile of mandatory crap disguised as a vacation, no? Here’s the thing: It was great!!!

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Wembley, captured on film on the streets of Philadelphia.

We had a good time seeing Jennifer’s family (especially V), and we got to kick it at our favorite hotel in Philly. Rittenhouse Square was all decked out and really got us into the holiday spirit. Going back to Lewes, DE was actually one of the highlights of our trip, even though we were dreading dealing with our stored stuff . Not only did we successfully cut ties with the storage Nazis, we got to see a bunch of amazing people and get our asses handed to us working out at CrossFit Lewes. Turns out we were a lot more fit when we lived there. The big bummer was we really didn’t have enough time to visit with everyone, an oversight we are hoping to overcome by encouraging everyone to visit us in STJ! And, finally, we ended the week at my brother’s place in DC.

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Check out Santa.

It was a super-happy coincidence that the first night of Hanukkah was on Christmas Eve this year, since my brother and I both married Chosen People. Also, for the past several years, we have kept Christmas interesting by picking a different theme every year. These themes are more celebratory than authentic. Think grade school book report, not senior thesis. We’ve done French, Caribbean, Russian, Chinese, Italian, you get the picture. Everything from french fries and berets to the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Some years have been really successful and some have been a little half-assed. I am happy to report that this year’s theme was Mexico and my brother and his wife KNOCKED IT OUT OF THE PARK.

 

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Tablescapes just don’t get better than this.

It was a crazy Hanukkah-Meximas smash. We had festive decor. We made tamales. We had brisket, latkes, and jelly doughnuts. We had ponchos. And beer ponchos. We had chicken enchiladas, lamb tacos, and multiple tablescapes. We had an incredible playlist. We also had a traditional roast turkey, stuffing, homemade rolls, and  a custom-made holiday movie trivia game involving dreidels.  Thanks, Mom! And congratulations on the win, Will and Olivia. We’re going to kick your ass next year. We even had a custom-made prank gift. Did you know that if you wrap a couple of rectangular ceramic tiles in duct tape, put an Apple sticker on it, and wrap it in bubble-wrap it looks a lot like a MacBook Pro?  Well, we do. Thanks, Dad.

Never a dull moment.

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Game on.

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Hola. Me llamo Bernie. Feliz Navidad.

And now we’re back in The Suites with a month more to go. I have to say, we were pretty down and out in the weeks before Hanukkah/Christmas. We were crushed by the election. Obviously. And, in general, 2016 has been pretty fucking crappy all around. But that trip (and literally watching about 35 Hallmark Holiday movies in our hotel home) saved our holiday season. So, in the final hours of this year, barring further tragedy, Happy New Year, guys. Cheers. Oh, and if you’re in the market for a vintage RV we can make that happen…

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Happy Hanukkah.

Home Suite Home

House burn down? Messy divorce? Shitty sales route? Immigration problems? Welcome to the world of the extended stay hotel. Welcome home.

Actually, I love it here. We’re camped out in a Marriott extended stay hotel in Indianapolis and it’s kicking Airbnb’s ass. Here’s why:

  • There’s maid service.
  • There’s a very useful guy we’ve been calling Alan at the Front Desk.
  • Everything works. And if it doesn’t, just go see Alan.
  • There’s always free coffee, cookies, newspapers, and fresh fruit in the lobby.
  • There’s a workout room.
  • There’s a “business center.” I’ve never printed so many pages!
  • There’s free breakfast every day.
  • There’s an outdoor grilling pavilion next to the parking lot. Shockingly popular.

All of that sounds pretty fancy, right? But this is not a fancy place. We call it The Suites, but it’s really like a block of student-housing apartments disguised as townhouses, right behind a stripmall next to the highway. Not even a good stripmall. The one directly next to us is anchored by a Kohl’s. If you’re familiar with Motel 6, imagine Motel 9. That’s where we are.

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Breakfast at The Suites

 

I always look forward to seeing what the neighbors got up to last night. You can’t hide from the trashcan.

But it’s not just about the amenities here at The Suites. It’s the community. People here keep their heads down. No one is trying to tell you about some farmer’s market. Everyone is trying to scam the breakfast bar. I’m not judging, I’m doing it too. Did I sneak my own homemade yeasted waffle batter downstairs and cook  it in the communal waffle iron instead of using the gross Golden Malted batter they supply? Yes ma’am, I did. I live here. Did I try to use hotel fruit in virtually every meal for the first week? Yep, did that too. Apple slaw. Apple crumble. Orange crepes. Banana cookies (sounds gross but SO amazing). It’s kind of turning into a game. I’d actually love to compare notes with the guy I’ve seen packing up like 6 hard-boiled eggs, 8 pieces of bread, two yogurts, seven catsup packets and a coffee cup full of pancake syrup. I want to know what magic he’s going to work with that stuff. But I’m pretty sure talking about it is against the rules.

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Flaming crepes with oranges fresh picked from the lobby. Disabled the smoke detector long ago.

I could live here forever.

Back At Square One

Okay, okay. We learned our lesson about blog procrastination. While our last post made it seem like we’re still in Florida, that is not actually the case. We left Florida almost two weeks ago. It just took us forever to do the post on Gulfport. Whoops. Here’s what happened (approximately in order):

  • We got word from the mechanic that Coachese was STILL NOT READY.
  • Jennifer accepted an offer to work another month back in Indianapolis which is pretty close to St. Louis where we eventually (hopefully) will have to pick up the Winnebago.
  • We packed up the Chevy Cruze and raced (through the Hurricane Matthew evacuation zone) up the East Coast to Washington, DC. Why? To attend the All Things Go Fall Classic. It’s a music festival. It was amazing. Totally worth it. Sadly, I was worried about drunkenly losing my camera so we don’t have any photos. But they do. As an added bonus, we got to kick it with family/friends in DC for a couple of days. Killer.
  • From there, we drove onward to Indy. We got a flat tire somewhere in Ohio but eventually made it to the fabulous extended stay hotel we’ll be calling home for the next few weeks. So glamorous!

 

  • Got another call from the mechanic. Three miles into the post-repair test drive, a totally different part of Coachese almost caught on fire and he had to be towed back to the garage.* Stellar.
  • Saw a terrible movie called American Honey. It was so bad, I had to mention it. Don’t ever see it. (See Hell or High Water instead. Now.)

Looks like you’re all caught up.

 

 

 

*For those of you who are interested: we are now in the market for a new rear differential after the un-lubricated wheel bearings “burnt up” and caused all kinds of automotive chaos.

 

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Gulfport, Fl. In Excruciating Detail.

We’re spending quite a bit of time in Gulfport trying to decide what our next move will be, road trip-wise. We’re having a pretty good time down here so we thought we would share the hits with you guys, in case you ever end up in the Gulfport/St. Petersburg/ Tampa area of Florida. Basically, Will and Olivia, this one’s for you for the next time you visit Mom and Dad. You’re welcome.

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Gulfport

Things to know. Gulfport is a quirky little town on the beautiful Gulf Coast of Florida. It’s basically right next to St. Petersburg which is extremely close to Tampa. Very confusing. Anyway, it’s a beach town with a sort of shabby-chic Golden Girls vibe. Think hippie-meets-hip-hop-meets-hip replacement. With lots of random strip malls, gorgeous bays, carpet stores, independent motels and palm trees. Needless to say, I can’t get enough of it. Here’s some stuff to do and/or eat:

Dali Museum: Yes, as in Salvador Dali. So random that it’s here- but it is. It’s right on the water in downtown St. Petersburg and the building itself is incredible. We’ve seen the permanent collection, which is impressive, as well as a temporary exhibit about the relationship between Dali and Disney. Totally fascinating. Next up is an exhibit revolving around  the food of Ferran Adria (El Bulli) and how he transformed gastronomy in the way Dali transformed art. You see how this works. They’re doing a good job over there, keeping it interesting.  Plus, there’s a very solid Spanish-centered cafe on the ground floor.

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Inter-species love in downtown St. Pete (near the Dali museum, of which we have no pictures). Whoops.

Tarpon Springs: This is a little cuckoo. It’s a town settled by Greek sponge-divers. It’s still very Greek. People speaking Greek, Greek restaurants everywhere, Greek coffee. It’s like a legit, cheesy, tourist town in Greece with no passport required. Not a bad little day-trip. We heard good things about the whole fish dinner at a place called Hellas, but didn’t get a chance to try it. About an hour away from Gulfport. Take alternate Rt. 19 for a nice drive.

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Not one passport.

Ringling Museum: Yes, Ringling as in  The Circus. This place is so spectacular I don’t even know where to begin. We actually became members. Not even kidding. There are basically three attractions at the Ringling campus: The Circus Museum, The Art Museum, and John and Mabel Ringling’s fully-restored 1920’s palacial Florida home which is called Ca’D’Zan. It’s bananas. In case you were wondering, Ca’D’Zan means John’s House in some obscure Italian dialect. John Ringling was a big fan of naming everything after himself, which I enjoy immensely.

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The basics.

Anyway, make Ca’D’Zan your focus and do it first. Definitely do the tours (get the whole package so you get into the third floor and onto the roof). This is not a huge commitment, maybe an hour and a half total, but you get the whole history of the Ringlings (who are now solidly placed on my mental list of  The World’s Greatest Childless Couples) and really sets you up to appreciate the whole campus.The guides are stellar. Ours was dressed up and kept insisting it was 1924, which was a little awkward because the only other couple on the tour clearly wasn’t that into him. Luckily, they cheaped out on the extended tour so we ended up with a private guide after the 2nd floor.This happens to us a lot. Don’t cheap out.

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Ca’D’Zan. Yep.Craziness.

After Ca’D’Zan, definitely walk over and check out the art museum, it’s beautiful. It’s another John Ringling creation. He built a world-class art museum in a swamp in the twenties, basically as a gimmick to get people to buy real estate in Sarasota (my interpretation). I love everything about that.

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Art museum. Very subtle.

Finally, swing by the Circus museum. I thought this would be my favorite part of the whole thing, and it definitely is cool, but it kind of gets overshadowed by the other stuff. (This might be because part of the Circus museum was closed when were there because of some HVAC crisis.) The one real “can’t-miss” exhibit at the Circus Museum is the miniature circus. It sounds ridiculous and boring, but it’s weirdly fascinating. This guy, who’s name I forgot, has devoted many years of his life to building a complete model depiction of the circus in it’s heyday. Every detail is covered. The big tops. The stables. The commissary. The backlot. I know this is a tough-sell, but really- go.

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Partial view of mini-circus, from above. For a mini-circus, it’s enormous.

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My brother was the World’s Biggest Gunther Gebel-Williams fan when he was a kid. So fabulous, so odd. Here you go, Will.

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Jennifer kicking it with some depression-era clowns. I laugh every time I see this one. Very convincing.

Bodega on Central: Cuban coffee and sandwiches served from a walk-up window in the very cool Central Arts District of St. Petersburg. Definitely trendy (there’s a juice bar), but the Cuban sandwiches are Sofa King amazing and the staff is top-notch. Seriously. They know what they’re doing and they crank it out. I love it. I’m very tired of going to too-cool-for-school places that have great food and an absolute inability to make change, keep a line moving, or wipe a counter. Also, all the seating is outside and it’s dog-friendly.

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World’s Best Cuban Sandwich in St. Petersburg

Mangia: healthy lunch option in Gulfport. Good salads, lots of vegetarian options, dog-friendly patio. It is our go-to lunch pick because it’s close to home and we never feel gross after eating here. This can be sort of a french fries and cole slaw town, and after a while those just don’t count as vegetables. Mangia is our solution.

Locale Market: This place is basically a gourmet food-court/grocery store combo. My suspicion is 95% of their patrons are there for the prepared food and the groceries are mostly for decoration. It is very hip, and very confusing and almost impossible to actually buy something. Still, we went a bunch. High quality meats and seafood. Also, it’s right next to the movie theater.

Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish: Weird roadside fish stand, very close to Gulfport. Apparently, it’s a Florida tradition. They basically have platters of smoked fish, german potato salad, and beer. You should have lunch here.

Fort DeSoto State Park: Huge state park with an amazing dog beach. They have very nice human beaches, too. And an interesting fort. But really, it’s like dog paradise. In addition to the dedicated dog beach, there are couple of enormous, fenced dog parks with dog showers. Love it.

 

We had a lot of fun. Thanks Mom and Dad!

*Sorry for the long post. Turns out we probably should have posted as went. The youth are trying to sell us on using Instagram. We’re considering it.

 

Squatter-Proofing

No one will be shocked to hear the Winnebago’s still not ready, right? Truthfully, we’ve almost forgotten about Coachese. It seems like we’ve been in Florida forever. There’s a lot of great stuff going on here, so we’re not complaining. But, sadly, our much anticipated, genre-defining guide to Gulfport is not quite ready yet because, well, we’re still here working on it.

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Coachese, who?

 

As you may know, we’ve been away from our island paradise for more than seven months. We didn’t plan to be gone for that long and were starting to get the feeling maybe things weren’t going so well at our house in St. John. We came to this conclusion because we are thoughtful, intuitive people with loads of good, common sense. Also, we were getting distressing texts from our island neighbors. So, last week, we left the pups here in Florida with my parents and flew down to STJ to check on things. We were not optimistic.

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Donkey poop. We hope.

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Grill down.

Things degrade quickly in the tropics. And seven months is a long time. But, I have to say, things could definitely have been worse. Apparently, the drought is over so everything was pretty overgrown. It also looked like someone had been squatting in our shack. But the main house (although covered in dust and lizard poop) was pretty much OK. We’d had the pool recently drained after we heard it turned green when the power got shut off. We didn’t bother refilling it. I think not having a pool will make the place less attractive to squatters. I mean, people have standards, no?

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Jennifer, armed and dangerous, tackles the yard.

So we spent a few days cleaning up, sorting out the power situation (in person, because nothing ever happens if you just call in-trust me on this), cutting back weeds, hiring a property management company to keep the place secured, trying to find contractors (which is harder than you’d think-more on that later) and putting big padlocks on everything. We also took this opportunity to transport even more IKEA furniture. If you live on a small island your luggage gets pretty sketchy, pretty quickly. Who gives a shit  about underwear? We checked six chairs, a bench, and an outdoor table that seats four. For free. Not even kidding. We’ve accumulated like 90% of our furniture this way. Which is less impressive than it sounds if you saw how much furniture we actually have.

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Luxury luggage. Classy.

 

The reality is our house in STJ is still very much a work in progress. Or a disaster zone, depending on your mindset. The Winnebago’s interior is way nicer than our house right now. Zero  exaggeration, friends. But it is an amazing place and we absolutely love it. Yes, there are squatters, and droughts, and donkey poop, and ridiculous obstacles to accomplishing basic things. But there’s also so much beauty and so little marketing and crazy stuff just happens all the time. I mean, while we were gone our friend Hugo, a huge Wembley fan, somehow planted all these orchids on our trees so we’ll eventually have an orchid alley leading to our house. Who does that? That’s wonderful. I mean, probably our negligence and general irresponsibility shouldn’t be rewarded, but fuck it, we’ll take it. Thank you!

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Orchids for Wembley!

 

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Thanks Hugo!

 

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The Real Cost of a Vintage RV

We’ve been in Gulfport, Florida for about two weeks waiting on the all-clear to pick up our 1974 Winnebago Brave, Coachese, in St. Louis. We still haven’t figured out what to do next, but we’re having a good time in the sunshine state and we’ll definitely post the highlights soon. This morning, as I was sitting in my parents’ house at age 41, I decided to do a little digging into the financial aspect of this trip. Not a very encouraging thing to do but who are we to shy away from reality, right? So here go some figures to ponder which will hopefully make you feel better about any possibly shady decisions you’ve ever made in your life:

 

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Disclaimer: I’m not a mathemagician and these might not be the world’s most well-researched numbers, but they are for sure in the ballpark. Sadly.

Enjoy your day.

 

Thwarted. Again.

So, after almost two weeks in corporate housing on the outskirts of Indianapolis we got word from the mechanic that it was going to be at least a couple of more weeks until Coachese, our ill-fated Winnebago,would be ready. Who here is shocked? Anyone? It is apparently very tough to find a gearbox for a 1974 Dodge chassis. Now we know. Devastating blow. Also, sadly familiar. Welcome to the Groundhog Day of road trips.

Obviously, the chances of salvaging this trip are getting pretty slim. Obviously, we couldn’t live in corporate housing forever. So we packed up the rental Chevy Cruze and headed down to Gulfport, Florida, home of my parents. This seemed like a good choice for a variety of reasons, including:

a) it’s not Indianapolis…or anywhere in the Midwest for that matter.

b) we like Florida

c) we can fly home direct from Florida (huge bonus for the dogs)

d) there’s the possibility that if we don’t totally throw in the towel, my parents could dog sit while we go take care of some things in St. John, since we’ve been gone longer than anticipated already

e) who doesn’t love family time?

So, that’s where we are. Soaking up sunshine in Gulfport. Considering our options.

Some of you may be wondering, why the f@ck don’t you just go back to your island paradise? Excellent question, my friends. I guess the reason is we’re still kind of irrationally attached to the idea of spending at least a little time in Coachese since we’ve invested so much in him.  Also, we kind of have a plan to be in DC in October to see a show (and meet our new nephew-dog, Bernie). It’s a real pain to fly the dogs, so going back and forth is not ideal. Probably we’ll figure something out soon. Probably. Stay tuned.

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Coachese as a taco truck.

***On an encouraging note, when we stopped for stellar tacos in Nashville on our drive down to Florida, we picked up this shirt at Mas Tacos. Who knew they were Winnebago enthusiasts as well as taco all-stars? Come on. This has to be a sign.***

 

Indianapolis. Indy. Naptown.

It turns out our corporate housing outside of Indianapolis is, well, way outside of Indianapolis; but it’s been surprisingly pleasant. There’s nothing to do but take advantage of our lux accommodations (full kitchen, large bathtub, two TVs!) and all that strip malls can offer- especially a multiplex movie theater and a self-serve dogwash. The pressure is off. There’s no great art show we need to see, no wilderness to explore. Instead of unplugging and finding a deeper connection in the natural world we are loving our high-speed internet connection, Lifetime Movie Network, and Law and Order marathons. Also, we discovered the Viceland Channel. Life could be worse.

 

So while we’re enjoying this vacation from, um, our vacation I figured I’d write a little about the things we liked during our five month stint in Indianapolis.

Hmmm. Okay.

Indianapolis. Literally city of Indiana. Not too many capital cities are named after their state. If they were it’d be easier to remember them. Imagine Montanapolis,  Alabamapolis, or New Hampshirepolis, instead of Helena, Montgomery, or Concord (yes, I had to look all those up). It’s logical but also a little self-aggrandizing. A state must think very highly of itself to have its capital named after it.

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Many statements like this to be found in the Indiana State Museum, folks.

Spend a little time in the Indiana State Museum  and you start to get the sense maybe Indiana is the center of the universe. Their natural history exhibit traces the origin of our planet from the big bang to modern day in a series illustrations with Indiana identified by a bright yellow dot. When our planet was just molten liquid there’s Indiana, right in the middle. As land starts to form there’s Indiana, right in the middle. Pangea, dead center again. Land masses shift, continents form-wait a second, how’s it possible? Indianapolis-more like Centrocosmos.

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And in the middle of Indiana-Indianapolis.

But I digress. A lot. This post is about what we like in Indianapolis, not how much it loves itself. And although we’re not totally on board the Indianapolis train here’s some things we’d recommend:

Milktooth– This might be our favorite restaurant in the world (okay, maybe we are on board). It’s only open for breakfast and lunch which makes it a very reasonable dining experience. The atmosphere is casual and the food is fantastic. It’s the best of all possible world’s- an unbelievably creative high-end restaurant disguised as your favorite neighborhood coffeeshop. I can’t say enough good things about this place. Go eat there.

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Milktooth, absolutely our favorite thing in Indianapolis.

Indianapolis Museum of Art-I really liked their contemporary art and contemporary design exhibitions. There’s a lot to see but I’d recommend taking the time to check out the Lilly House and Gardens. Also, they have Indiana themed mini-golf in the summer. It’s fabulous. Check out hole number one-Shadow Tailed Scourge:

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According to the description “This hole highlights the ‘Great Squirrel Invasion’ of 1822, when a westward migration of squirrels across Indiana decimated crops and damaged farmland.” More on the squirrels here.

Fountain Square-We got a chance to live here for a month and it was probably our favorite neighborhood in Indy. Lots of bars, breweries and places to eat.

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Wildwood Market

Because we were here for so long we ended up cooking most of our own meals. Luckily for us, Indianapolis has a few local markets that are real standouts. Wildwood Market in Fountain Square is a fantastic local market to pick up groceries or a sandwich for lunch. Kind of like the world’s nicest bodega. Goose the Market is an absolutely amazing butcher shop. High quality and thoughtfully sourced. They also have produce, bread, sandwiches. If you’re in Indy for a while definitely check it out. Locally Grown Gardens is a hard to define space in Broad Ripple. It’s kind of like a BBQ spot with gorgeous kitchenware, specialty ingredients, and a select menu of pies and entrees available when, well, they’re available. If that unpredictability sounds frustrating it can be-but its worth it. Keep going back.

Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site-Okay, so I’m a huge history nerd and I love tours of old homes. Especially old Presidential Homes. And I have to say, this is one of the best I’ve seen. The house is beautifully maintained with a ton of original furnishings and decorations. There’s even an original document signed by Abraham Lincoln. It turns out Harrison did some amazing things in his one term. He started the National Forest system and opened Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. He established relations with Central America and fought monopolies. He was like an earlier Teddy Roosevelt without the megalomania. I knew nothing about him before our tour and now he’s one of my faves.

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President Harrison, not just a great mini-golf hole.

 

This is not our usual list of wall-to-wall activities. Keep in mind we came here for work, it was winter, and we spent a significant amount of time in movie theaters. And even though Indianapolis may not be the center of our universe, we definitely had some good experiences here. Thanks, Hoosiers.

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Sunset over corporate housing. So beautiful.

 

Well, F#ck Us.

The Winnebago is not ready.

We talked to the mechanics and found out we’re looking at another 10-14 days. Minimum. We made the very best of being in St. Louis for almost two weeks, but we’re done now. Really, really done. The level of despair in this crew is nearly unprecedented. Curses have been cursed. Flights have been researched. Decisions have been regretted. Plans have been scrapped.

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Seemed like such a good idea.

We usually have no problem walking away from unfinished projects (not a good thing, just a fact)  but what it comes down to is- we can’t leave the Winnebago. Even if we can’t do the extended trip we were planning (big possibility) we need to get him running so we can either sell him (gasp) or get him safely stored somewhere. We have to find a place to stay for two more weeks. And, yes, in case you’re wondering, we are in fact blowing more and more of our trip budget each day we’re out here. So we need some damage control. We need to do something responsible.

We’re going back to Indianapolis. To live in cheap corporate housing outside of the city.

Crusher. Backwards sucks. But here’s our reasoning:

a) it’s only a few hours away

b) we already know Indy so we won’t be tempted to blow all our dough running around a new city (we’ll blow all our dough on a carefully curated itinerary instead)

c) they have a very solid movie theater

Off we go.

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Eastward ho.

 

 

 

Things to do in St. Louis when you’re totally stranded.

It’s been about ten days since Coachese, our seemingly doomed Winnebago, crapped out on us in St. Louis. At that point, he had literally millions of mechanic’s hours, buckets of sweat and tears, and actual American Dollars in him. On the other hand, we had several days worth of fond memories of camping in him. So when the good people at this latest shop gave us the bad news and asked us to think seriously about what we wanted to do about him, we did. For like 5 minutes. Then we told them not to give up. This might be like calling in the transplant team for your 99 year old grandma, but there it is. No question, he will ride again.

In the meantime, we loaded some of our stuff into big, blue Ikea bags, rented a car and headed off to yet another airbnb, because money is clearly no object for ballers like us. To be honest, we were all pretty much over this whole experience. We were feeling defeated. We suspect Frances doesn’t even remember St. John. We were burnt on the midwest. We debated going home for a week while Coachese was in surgery, but ultimately, that didn’t really make sense. Plus, I had serious doubts we’d actually come back.

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Airbnb. Here we go again.

To pull ourselves out of our depression, we threw ourselves wholeheartedly into our area of greatest expertise: recreation. We decided to treat St. Louis like we were actually here on purpose. Here’s what we’ve been up to for the last ten days:

 

The Arch. It seems kind of dumb and it’s hard to accurately describe, but if you find yourself with a day in St. Louis you definitely have to go. See the movie in the visitor center before you go up. Really. It’s a piece of late sixties gold, like an episode of Quincy, but it also puts the whole thing in context. Possibly the whole city. Plus, you go up in these crazy little Buck Rogers elevator cars. It’s surreal.

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Get ready for the movie.

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Your ride to the top-it goes sideways too!

The World Chess Hall of Fame. Not even kidding. It was in the first neighborhood we stayed in (Central West End), so we just walked over. We don’t play chess, but the museum is totally worth a stop if you have some time to kill. They had an exhibition of paintings inspired by the chess games of Marcel Duchamp. I still have no idea how to play chess but it’s always cool to see a bunch of people so into one thing.

St. Louis Art Museum. Good times. And free! They have a huge Max Beckmann collection, it turns out. Now we’re big fans. Beckmann, who knew?

Cahokia Mounds State Park. Do you guys know about the Mound cultures of the midwest? I’m not going to explain it all here but it’s basically like our version of the Aztecs. That neither of us ever learned about in school. Definitely look it up. There are sites throughout the midwest, but this one was especially cool because you can actually go up on the mounds and really see how it was all laid out 1,000 years ago. Also the visitor center is kind of incredible. Not that much science in there (think 4th grade field trip) but their life-size diorama game is top notch. World Class.

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Life-size, my friends.

 

We stumbled on an outdoor movie at White Flag Projects. They were showing A Film To Be Determined by Cindy Sherman. They basically have a series over the summer where a different artist will pick a movie and they screen it outside for free with free refreshments. Stellar. The catch is they don’t tell you what the movie is, just the artist who picked it. Then attendees are sworn to secrecy about what the movie was.We love Cindy Sherman and we absolutely loved the movie. If you ever find yourself here, maybe check them out to see what’s going on.

The Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion. No idea what that is? We didn’t either. We moved to a new neighborhood, Cherokee Street, a few days ago and we were out walking the dogs when we saw this sign saying there were tours available at The Chatillon-DeMenil House. When we went over to see what was what, the guy working there said there was a tour starting and he would watch our dogs for us on the porch. What??? Are you kidding??? Our tour guide was fantastic. He was one of those guys who was so into what he was doing that it was absolutely impossible not to be interested. We got the whole history of the city in this one tour. It’s so much cooler than it sounds. Also, the dogs had a blast. $8 well-spent.

The St. Louis World’s Fare in Forest Park. There was a World’s Fair here in 1904 and it was a really big deal. Turns out  we were here for the annual celebration they have on the old fairgrounds which is now a beautiful city park. We’ve both been World’s Fair geeks since reading Devil in a White City, which is a true story about a serial killer operating in and around the 1893 Chicago World Fair. So this was right up our alley. Lots of food, lots of beer, lots of art, some amateur bellydancing, a cook-off and eight million dogs. What more could we want? It was fantastic. The pups had The World’s Greatest Day.

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Wembley was very into the belly-dancing hula-hoopers. Very.

Laumeier Sculpture Park. We drove out to this place because we were looking for a dog-friendly way to spend the day. This totally exceeded our expectations. They have acres of paths with tons of sculptures, including a huge eyeball which everyone enjoyed. They also have bathrooms, water fountains, shady spots. Everything you need for an afternoon with canine art-lovers. Totally free.

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Everyone loves a giant eyeball.

And, finally, The Anheuser Busch Brewery Tour. To be honest, the only reason this was even on our radar was we heard St. Louis sits atop this huge network of caves which is why beer brewing  really took off here. I’m not talking about the 47 million craft breweries you can find in every American city these days. I’m talking about the German immigrants who needed cool temperatures to make the beer they missed from home. In the pre-refrigeration days, caves were key. Kind of fascinating, right? So, we bit the bullet and headed over not quite sure what to expect.

They have a few different tours that range from totally free to really cheap. We’re fairly dorky  and picked the history one, so of course we were the only ones in our group. This happens to us a lot. We basically spent almost two hours with a personal guide walking around the historic Budweiser campus drinking beer and meeting Clydesdales (in their incredible barn which is itself a National Landmark). The brewery has been in continuous operation since the late 1800’s and the heft of that was actually pretty mind-blowing. Oh, and the Beechwood Aging is a real thing. We saw it. Warning: there may be a lot of Budweiser propaganda on this tour. I mean, there must be- it’s now my favorite beer.

So, if you’re ever stranded in St. Louis with two dogs, there’s some stuff to check out. We’ve had a surprisingly solid experience here. It’s a good town, but we’re very ready to get back on the road. We’re hoping to get Coachese back today or tomorrow, but who knows?