Cherry blossom season is a busy tourist season in Japan. However, taking the time to visit the country during the blooming of the sakura is worth it. When in full bloom, the blossoms are breathtaking.
A three-week work trip to Texas this past month wasn’t complete unless I sampled some of the many food trucks the city of Austin has to offer. Lining the streets of South Congress (aka SoCo) and 1st Street, the trucks and trailers offered a variety of snacks and meals ranging from sweet to savory, tacos to donuts, and ice cream to fresh, cold pressed juice.
There is nothing like a good beer after a long day of traveling and exploring. After sight seeing in Kyoto, jumping on and off trains to see the shrines and temples, and finally the Nishiki Market, we came across the Craft Man Beer House next door to a restaurant serving kobe beef.
The Aoyama Tea House is truly a hidden gem in Tokyo, Japan. Nestled in the back of the small Aoyama Flower Market, the Tea House provides a lovely and calming ambience. Fresh floral arrangements decorate the tables and line the walls while friendly staff busily wait on the guests ensuring that their stay is memorable.
A visit to Tokyo is not complete until you’ve set foot at the Tusujiki Fish Market. Established in 1923 and open daily, with the exception of Sundays and holidays, the Fish Market is one of the largest of its kind, if not the largest in the country of Japan. Known for fresh seafood and produce and the intense, early morning tuna auction, the market is bustling with locals and foreigners trying to buy groceries and to grab a quick meal at one of the local vendors.
It took me six months to finally get my Scuba Diving Open Water Certification. I had originally intended on completing it while still living in Tucson, going through The Dive Shop for the academics, confined water, and eventually the open water portions. I was in the process of moving and without much to do and no dog to worry about, I signed up for the class, completing my academics in the evenings after work and spending an entire weekend doing the confined water skills.
Due to work, I was unable to go to Lake Pleasant and finish my open water dives. When I moved to Rapid City, I ended up Googling scuba diving places in South Dakota and found Landshark Scuba in Sioux Falls, gave them a call, and they helped me set up on their next dive trip to Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico. I planned for months, getting my gear together, reviewing basic skills, and finally it was time to get on the plane. It had been cold in South Dakota, so the warm weather was exactly what I needed.
The second half of my road trip consisted mostly of driving with very little sight seeing. There wasn’t much to see on the roads I took through Utah and Wyoming without going hours out of the way and I was desperate to reach Rapid City in good time. The night I spent in Salt Lake City was awful; the hotel wasn’t bad, but my neighbors didn’t understand the concept of quiet hours and were yelling at each other every 30 minutes as well as continuously slamming the door. Not the hotel’s fault, but I unfortunately didn’t get a good night’s rest. I had a long drive ahead of me to Casper and I was taking a detour to see the Spiral Jetty on the north side of the Great Salt Lake.
I started my drive north and on the way to the Spiral Jetty, I accidentally ended up at the Golden Spike National Historic Site while looking for directions. It wasn’t part of my planned trip, but I decided to stay a little while since the site did have some unique history behind it. Golden Spike NHS was the place where, in 1869, the Union and Pacific Railroads were joined and the last spike was driven into the rails. During the summer, reenactments of the event are held during the summers on the weekends and steam demonstrations of the locomotives No. 119 and Jupiter are held daily. The locomotives are replicas of the original but are almost exactly the same size, shape, coloring and fully functional like the originals. More information on the site can be found at the Golden Spike NHS website.
I followed the directions to the Spiral Jetty which was easier than what I expected on the mostly dirt roads. The art piece is by Robert Smithson and used over six thousand tons of basalt rocks from the site. I was hoping for the coiled art piece to be slightly submerged in water but the lake was pretty dry and I was able to walk out on the dried salt bed and among the many rocks. Either way, it was pretty cool to see.
The drive from the Spiral Jetty to Casper was 8 hours long and I didn’t have any other planned stops. I spent the night there and got a restful night’s sleep before waking up for an early start to Rapid City. I’ll be honest, I started hating the flat-ness of the plains since I was used to seeing mountains, but I had heard so many wonderful things about the Black Hills and the Badlands that I was looking forward to exploring the outdoors in a part of the country I’ve barely visited.
I have lived in South Dakota for four months and so far it’s been fantastic. The food, the people, and the sites are amazing and I’ve definitely got more road trips planned out for this new year.