My husband and I love traveling, camping, hiking, and road trips. We are completely outdoorsy people who can’t get enough of nature and food. The only time we would stay home is when we’re both tired due to the whole week’s work. It’s summer and since the last few months, we’ve been planning to go back to Florida. The first time we saw the very tip of the U.S. was when we went to Key West and ever since we’ve been excited to go back. However, this year will not be about the 7-mile bridge of an epic drive amidst turquoise blue waters because we believe that 2017 holds great changes and new goals to achieve. So, this time we decided to see more of the U.S. especially the states up North: Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. Our stopovers were very quick but sometimes a quick trip is enough to experience a place and its culture and that is exactly what we did for this journey. The ultimate destination for this road trip was Chicago, the jazz state. Why Chicago? Because my husband lived there before and he wanted me to see where he used to live, where he used to go to work, and where he used to eat. I was not involved in the trip planning this time. I didn’t know where we were staying or what we were going to do. Usually, I plan our trips but this time he wanted to surprise me so he planned everything from the schedule, budget, and booking. This trip was one of his “our-lives-will-always-be-a-honeymoon” adventures. I just love him so much.
Before I move on to tell you about the trip, I just want to share something about my marriage. First of all, I didn’t think I would get married at all. But now that I am, I am enjoying life more than ever. I found someone I can connect with and every flaw is less significant. Our stubbornness against each other in the past have been replaced by kindness. We are both not perfect nor will we ever be but what we hold onto is our common ground. In an imperfect marriage, I truly think that couples should really work on having a common ground before anything else because that will be the place where you meet each other when things are tough. For us, it’s food and nature. Try this if you can’t get along because it works. 😉
If there is one trait that I love the most about my husband, I would pick: Adventurous. We have a lot of crazy moments where out of the blue he pulls over in the middle of nowhere and tell me to get ready to hike, trek, or just lie down on the grass with him to gaze at the sky. This is why our trunk is always equipped! He pulls me out of my comfort zone and takes me to places we both have never been to. Believe me, every time we take on a random adventure, we find something amazing! Like a tree with an enormous beehive, a bird species that we’ve never seen before, or a group of raccoons passing by in front of us. Those little things truly make us happy. My life has become a roller coaster ride since I met him and I also think that it’s the life I’ve always feared of living because having no control just freaks me out. But being with him, traveling together, and literally holding hands every step of the way, I realized that sometimes it’s okay to be random, sometimes it’s okay to just hop on and enjoy the ride.
Going back to the road trip, my husband and I agree that the destination is less important than the journey so he added multiple stops to make the trip more exciting and probably just to bust our own myth that every U.S. state looks the same. I didn’t know where we were stopping, I just know that we would. Finally, just like many of you guys, we keep everything on a budget when we travel so we can spend more on the food and pay the entrance fees to very interesting places we find along the way. So, read through to get some ideas about where to stay, stop, and eat on a budget. The first leg of our state by state stopover to experience American culture is the lovely Pennsylvania.
1st Stop: Mineo’s Pizza House, Pittsburgh, PA
It was 9:00 AM when we started our road trip on a Saturday morning in May after we had breakfast. We were not in a rush as we ate our weekend protein based breakfast (eggs, bread, ginger and turmeric tea, and fruits for dessert) on the balcony. I prefer not to stress before traveling so I always prepare everything the night before. I already packed the banana cake, chocolate muffins topped with boiled icing (I posted this in IG), and Kiflice (a Balkan rolled bread with cheese inside), that I also prepared a day before. By 8:30 AM we were in the car and so was our stuff. It was a hot day here in the DMV area and our car is only semi-tinted so we cranked up the AC because the sun was very harsh that day. The first attraction we saw was the road to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where we saw the rarely seen Bisons on the hills of privately owned farms. Later on, after some research, I found out that there are Bison themed inns in Pennsylvania: the “Bison Inn” and the “Bison Farm BnB”. They breed Bisons in their property to attract more guests and also serve their meat. We didn’t know we were that close to Bison herds until that day. We thought they were only found on the Great Plains but here they are just 253 miles (4 hours and 22 minutes) away from us. We are fascinated with Bisons because of their history in America. If you have read about how they were almost wiped out to make sure the American Indians starved and surrendered during the colonization of America you will look at these great animals differently.
**Mineo’s Pizza House, Mt. Lebanon, PA
It was around 2:00 PM when we reached our first stop. Just the right time for lunch in a unique town called Mt. Lebanon, PA. We had pizza from a place called Mineo’s Pizza House whose business started way back in 1958. Reaching the place, as we were about to park, we saw that most people who were walking were carrying one or two pizza boxes from Mineo’s Pizza House. My husband realized that I was too hungry for a pizza so he asked me if I wanted Pho soup but I told him to stick to his plan so he took me to Mineo’s which he said is very famous in the area. Seriously, the place is busy. I would say busier than Domino’s in DC. The entire walls were adorned by their legacy just like Sloppy Joe’s in Keywest, they had jerseys, plaques, car plates, flags, frames and basically antique stuff that show their history. We were so excited, so we tried four varieties of pizzas: Traditional hand tossed, Buffalo Chicken, Sicilian, and if I am not mistaken a Double Cheese which my husband probably confused to John’s Special! For me, I loved the crust of the Buffalo Chicken flavor. The crust edges were crispy and obviously fried before baking. The inner part was baked as usual and the texture was similar to the pizzas you’ve eaten before: soft and cheesy. I have to note that if it wasn’t fried, my apologies, it tasted that way. It was unique and definitely tasty especially the first few bites. I just wish that I chose blue cheese over ranch on top because it made the pizza extremely salty. My husband complained before I even did, which is unusual for him, who eats almost everything and is never picky. But he kept on eating anyway because he was so hungry. My verdict, the pizza was tasty alright but the downside was that it was extremely oily. Like literally squeezing a half cup of oil from just 4 slices. I was done after 2 slices because I feel dizzy when I eat oily food. I don’t know if it’s just in my mind but since I was young when I used to eat pork with thick layers of fat I get satiated. We decided to pack what was left because the other varieties such as the Sicilian was nothing special and the crust was too thick and bland, the traditional hand tossed was okay, and the John’s Special was just fine as well. We were so hungry after 5 hours of driving so we didn’t care that much until we were about to leave. My husband’s stomach started feeling weird so we went out to get something sweet. I think we had a fast food shock because we don’t eat fast food often. That’s when we really concluded that we are now living very healthy because fast food doesn’t have appeal to us anymore. My verdict on Mineo’s Pizzas: Their pizzas are the standard pizzas in America and very tasty. But if you are sensitive to excessive oil in food, this is not for you. If you don’t mind oily and extremely tasty pizza then you will like this place. When we reached the car, my husband asked me if we had fruits in the car and luckily I brought bananas with us. We ate the bananas on the side of the road 🙂 and immediately felt better.
If you want to know more about our experience using oils like Olive, Grapeseed, Coconut, Sunflower, Canola, and Vegetable oils please read this article: What Oils Are Bad For You?
2nd Stop: Honking Goose Guest House
**Note: These photos are the property of the Honking Goose and copied from the Tripadvisor. The Honking Goose website is currently expired.
We reached our destination right before dark. Luckily! Because it was a bit strange in the beginning as we entered the place the GPS suggested. There was an unpaved driveway before you can see the Inn. In the rural areas of the U.S. that is usually the case but since I didn’t get involved in planning the trip, I didn’t know it was located in Amsterdam, Ohio. I have no complaints because my husband and I both love nature; it was just where the place was situated that surprised me. When you finally come to the open there is actually a big space for parking on the right, a big house in the middle, a separate bungalow retreat house, and a pond on the left if you are looking at the house from the driveway.
**This is the side of the house and where he is standing is the parking lot. The door behind is the back door where we entered.
When we arrived we parked in the space next to the back door. My husband told me to come with him for the check-in but I was too exhausted so I told him to go first. I saw him a bit confused so I walked out to helped and there we saw muddy shoes by the porch of the back door. We went around but we hesitated to open the door since there was no sign of mud or footsteps on the floor. There was only one presence in there and that was the big goose figurine, hence the name “Honking Goose”. So my husband went back to the back door once again and rang the doorbell. The owner, whose name is Jim, came out and welcomed him. I approached them and we both shook Jim’s hand. After that, he gave us some cookies that were freshly baked by his wife a few hours before our arrival. After seeing the rooms and taking our order for breakfast tomorrow, which was by the way included in the package, he gave us a tour around the house and the property. Chris showed us the man-made pond in front of the house surrounded by big pine trees. He said we can also borrow their boat if we wanted to try it. It was an awesome idea that we were tempted to avail but we were so tired and the boat was still completely wet from the rain. The owner said there are fishes in the pond which we didn’t take seriously. Then, my husband asked if there is a trail close by. Chris said there is a trail that splits into two: one steep and muddy but is flat and straight at some point and one that is straight and flat in the beginning but is extremely muddy and steep at some point. He left us after so we can bring our stuff to the room.
The King Room room was simple but gorgeous but for me what is more important is the cleanliness of the place and this place was spot on! Plus, the owner was very accommodating and nice. Our room is in the new extension of the house. The house was divided into two parts, their private residence and the inn with at least 8 bedrooms. When we went upstairs we saw two complimentary bottles of water and some Hershey’s Kisses chocolate. The bathroom was complete with toiletries and they have a foldable futon couch/bed in velvet red. Through the window, we could see the pond, the parking lot, and the trail. I loved the tranquility of the place, although you may still hear the cars on the road passing by behind the trees, it was very peaceful. They even offer their theater room for guests! They have a little movie library in DVDs and a popcorn machine. All you need to do is log your name on so that they can squeeze you in. The bathroom was a good size, complete with shampoo and conditioner, which does not come in small travel sizes like you usually see in hotels. They were regular sizes of probably about 250ml Garnier shampoo and conditioner with a note written on the bottle asking the visitors not to take it with them when they leave the Inn. I forgot the exact words but that is basically the essence. The room had freshly pressed linens that are very clean. Looks like the owner’s wife did the job because everything looked like a woman arranged everything. The pillows were clean, the duvet was warm enough, the futon couch was a maroonish color which can be unfolded into a bed, the floor carpet was clean, and there were lamps and outlets in places where you need to them to be. On the right side of the room next to the window, there is a large walk-in closet with a bridal gown. I don’t know who it belonged to but it was there. There was also a folder for contact list and a collection of the restaurant addresses and phone numbers close to the area. The bathroom was very clean and complete: they had towels with different sizes, soaps, shampoo and conditioner (Garnier), the shower is an attached plastic the kind you see in Ibis hotel and other budget hotels but it was nicely cleaned. They had toilet papers and some more backup supplies under the sink, and the floor was neat and dry. The room is airy because it has two big windows on both sides aligned with the walk-in closet. We kept them close because it was still chilly in May. If I have one comment though, that would be the water, the water has a certain smell, probably because the faucets are not always in use. Aside from that, it was quiet and all we could hear was some guests’ footsteps when they come in. No biggy, we turned on our waterfall music and we couldn’t hear anybody. We slept early that night but when some guests arrived later we could hear their footsteps and they could hear the music we were playing so we immediately turned it off. We thought the room was sound proof from the inside. Haha! Who are we kidding? Overall, we had a great sleep because the bed was not squeaking.
The Pond and the Trail
After we settled down and rested our backs we decided to enjoy the last 3 hours of sunlight. We went downstairs and strolled the property. The pond is big enough to be a small lake and they have huge fishes! I don’t know how many and what kinds of breeds they have down there but they sure are big! One of them moved and my husband heard the movement from the middle of the pond as it stirred the water. It turned out there were a lot of them.
**This is the pond where we saw the enormous fishes close to the Pine trees.
While roaming around, my husband was immersed in nature, while I am scrutinizing a pine tree. The pine had a lot of resin oozing out and some have already solidified. I could take a peek inside the tree because there were cubes that I suspect were taken out using an electric saw or some electric tools. I was so curious because I researched about tree resins before and I found out that the resin is actually the immune system of a tree which comes from the roots and goes up to the trunk during Spring or Summer to protect the tree from insects and heat. According to the article Tapping the Pine Tree: Plant Resins and Their Uses from Temperate Climate Permaculture “Resin is a fluid (specifically, a hydrocarbon) that is secreted from certain plants (a.k.a. resinous plants), most commonly trees, and most commonly coniferous trees such as pine trees. Resins perform a number of functions in the plants that produce them. Resins seal over wounds, and this protects the plant from pests and infections. Resins contain antimicrobial properties that help prevent decay and fungal infections, and resins also seem to decrease water loss during droughts or plant injury”. How amazing is that? I also found a good definition and pine resin salve recipe on The Forager’s Path. The article said “Tree resins function as the immune system of the tree. They contain proven antimicrobials and protect the plant from the same pathogens we deal with: bacteria, fungus, and viruses. This is what is used in the pine salve”.
**This is the video of my Pine resin curiosity. LOL. Come on! Watch it!
Isn’t that something to be amazed at? Because I surely am super amazed to have the chance to stay in an environment where I can learn something new by observing nature. Plus, I grew up in a tropical country. Although we have pines they grow in the colder regions in the northern islands of the Philippines. Trees are alive, so when I saw this amazing “#ginormous” pine with oozing resin I thought I was in a science lab again. I could see inside the tree since the first layer and some of its wood had been dug on. I saw that the resin really comes from the base of the plant going upwards like our own lymphatic system. The same way our white blood cells or lymphocytes get released from the large intestine when we are attacked by bad bacterias. I really wanted to take a little resin souvenir with me but that is so bad 😀 Instead, I decided to just enjoy observing it. The smell is just amazing! I love the natural scent. No wonder why one of the Three Kings who visited Jesus brought Frankincense and Myrrh as presents! They also look like gems in sunlight. Sorry guys, I am a nature lover but I never had the chance to observe these things until now because I was always inside the house.
**The tree in the middle marks the beginning of the diverging “Y” trails.
After we have enjoyed the sun, we walked over the small wooden bridge by the pond and took photos. My husband saw the owner again and decided to ask about the trails. He suggested that we choose the steeper trail because as we climb it get’s better. He was really helpful! So we started hiking while the sun was still up. Luckily, my boy scout husband prepped me to wear a sweater because May is still Spring and it’s still cold up North. Mosquitos are also very happy to suck your blood and leave red bumps on your skin if not some diseases. We also brought our OFF mosquito repellent with us, which seems to never work whenever we are in Florida, so I brought the Tea Tree Essential Oil with us just in case. We used Tea Tree oil before we went out and we came back without a bite not even an itch from insects on the trail. I was expecting some bites because the place was muddy and wet. We also went through a lot of weeds and bushes along the way that touched our clothes—but nothing. The trail from the beginning was already a bit steep so we decided to get some branches along the path to use as canes. We chose the trail the owner suggested to us. Going back, we saw the tree marker again and got curious, so we took the other trail that wasn’t suggested to us as well since the sun was still high up. Luckily, we did because it was not as muddy and as steep all the way through compared to the first trail we took! It turns out the trails meet somewhere up there where we came from. We trekked for about a mile. I can’t believe we did all those after more than 6 hours on the road.
Tea Tree Oil As Mosquito Repellent
I would like to introduce you to my personal experience with Tea Tree Oil. As I mentioned above, I use it for various purposes, so if you are new to the oil read this introduction, which I will expound on the Health section of my blog. The Tea Tree has been used in Oceania and Asia for thousands of years by the indigenous peoples of New Zealand, Australia, and Southeast Asia. People back then used only naturally derived medicine that usually plant-based. The smell of pure Tea Tree is very strong especially when it’s undiluted. Based on our experience on this trip, we found that the smell is very repugnant for insects including mosquitos. Luckily, I brought it with us. Although I believe this Tea Tree, from one Amazon seller, had been diluted with water it was still strong enough. I know so because when I tested it back home it didn’t sting my skin. Pure undiluted Tea Tree Essential Oil will irritate your skin so bad you will never forget to dilute it with a carrier oil ever again. Also, Tea Tree Oil should not be ingested. It is only for external purposes. I really feel safe when I have a bottle of tea tree with me wherever I go. I have it in my purse all the time. Just a little piece of advice from a friend, get the ones from New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, and India preferably cold pressed and greenish in color. Trust me on this, I have proven it myself but I will discuss this in another post. I use it for many purposes like cleaning my kitchen counters, my jewelry, healing scrapes or wounds, skin infection, candida on my back which is completely healed now! (Read 6th paragraph: About) Back when I posted the article on the About page the Tinea Versicolor on my back was only fading, now it is completely gone! I will post a photo in the Health section of my blog under the title Tea Tree Oil Heals Tinea Versicolor. This is why, I love tea tree oil! If there is one oil that I love so much, I profess my love for tea tree! Another fun fact to end my introduction about this amazing super oil: Did you know that Manuka honey comes from the Manuka plant which is one of the three Tea Tree plant varieties? However, Manuka tree is found in New Zealand with a Latin name Leptospermum scoparium while the essential oil that I use is an Australian Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia), and the third variety is Kanuka (Kunzea ericoides), which I know nothing about so far. I want to try this variety one of these days.
3rd Stop: Indy 500, Indianapolis, Indiana
So, came the morning and my husband, as spontaneous as he is, woke up to the alarm without any difficulty out of excitement to witness Indy 500. We had to leave before sunrise if we wanted to reach Indiana before the race starts. We left at 6:00 AM! Too bad we couldn’t try the breakfast! Based on the cookie they gave us, I can only imagine how the breakfast would taste like! Maybe next time… My husband called the owner to make sure everything is in order and confirmed that we couldn’t have their wonderful breakfast. Just like that, we were on another 326-mile journey for approximately 5 hours and 10 minutes.
**Photos from the road leaving Honking Goose Inn
Driving away from Amsterdam, Ohio we drove through a long foggy road, we saw a Christmas tree plantation, wealthy farmers’ homes and lands with ranches and horses, yet amidst all of these, the place gives you that back-in-the-cowboy-days kind of feeling because the area really looks like Wild Wild West. There were only a few cars parked on the sidewalk, tons of abandoned houses, and no one was awake or walking outside to go to work at 7:00 AM. In the DC area you will see people starting to head out at 4:00 AM. We’ve seen places like this before and only when you travel do you see the ugly side of truth where poverty is so real you would ask yourself “how is this possible in the U.S.”?
Anyway, after 6 hours we reached Indianapolis Motor Speedway and we had 30 minutes to find a parking and claim our prepaid tickets from the entrance. We made it on time even while arguing about petty things. We walked inside the Speedway and the place was enormous just like any circuit in the world. I have never seen so many people attend an event like this one. I have been to F1 races and the people just go in and out constantly but Indiana is definitely celebrating this event full blast. People young and old, drunk and sober, hippie and fashionable, women wearing cowboy boots on a hot sunny day, men in face and body paints, teenagers in American flag, parents and grand parents equipped with stereo, foldable chairs, coolers, tents, umbrellas, blankets, sunscreen, you name it, they were ready! I was excited about the race but was not really looking forward to the heat.
**Entering the Speedway’s race venue, the Pavillion, and a little Airshow
By the time we got inside they were already commencing the ceremonial aircraft exhibition. In simple terms, they launched a gigantic aircraft over our heads to mark the beginning of the race. We looked all over the place for the best spot where we could watch the race. After a few minutes, it was time to sing the national anthem. Not soon after, the race began.
The race, the car exhibits, and the American spirit
The noise was okay in the beginning but as the drivers revved up their engines it sounded like Formula 1. I am honestly not fond of these events but just for the experience, I would gladly attend, especially if it is for the concert after the race. However, for this one, we had to miss that part because we had to hit the road again. We took a few more photos in front of the Speedway but I guess that is less interesting for you guys so I will spare you the selfies. 😉
**A glimpse of the race and its fans
Hungry like we haven’t eaten in ages, we headed for the car in the neighborhood 20 minutes away from the Speedway where we got free parking and ate the food we brought inside the car before hitting the road again. Overall, we loved the stopovers. It gave us a better understanding of the many similarities and the little differences with American towns, their lifestyle, and their culture. Back then, every time I see the capitals of the states we visit, I used to think “Oh, wow! America looks all look the same”! What I mean is the building design, the color, the urban planning of the cities, the plazas, the malls, and even the way people dressed were similar to me. The rich and the poor divide like what we’ve seen in these three states are real. Just a few kilometers from each other and sometimes side by side, wealthier neighborhoods flourish just as much as the opposite. It is like crossing the line between two different worlds in a split second. We saw more than we expected to see so we kept on going. Our next destination is Chicago, Illinois, which is the next entry on this gastronomic and enriching summer road trip. Total travel time from Indianapolis to Chicago is only 2 hours and 54 minutes if there is no traffic. I couldn’t wait to arrive and rest! Thank you for reading. See you on the other side!
The contents of this blog are solely based on our personal experiences. All our health issues that have been cured by our healthy eating habits are based on thorough research. Every person has different tolerance levels, adaptability, health condition, and genetic predisposition. Please do not treat our advice as professional diagnoses. We encourage you to do some more readings apart from this article to find the diet that suits your current health needs.
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