Horseback Riding in Montana

Dave, Andrew and Ashley at the Bar W Guest Ranch in Montana, photo by Esha Samajpati. All rights reserved ©

I arrived in Kalispell, Montana yesterday all set to spend an entire week exploring America’s fourth largest state.

Tia Troy (Public Relations Manager at Glacier Country Tourism) and Ian & Tonya Fitzpatrick from World Footprints – all three of us drove straight from the airport to Bar W Guest Ranch, located on Spencer Lake in Whitefish. With over 3,000 acres dedicated to horseback riding, this ranch was the perfect way to kickstart my western adventure!

Stay tuned for more….

What a Bummer! The Lion’s Asleep!

Photograph by Pinaki Chakraborty. All rights reserved © 

“Mommy, look…the lion’s dead!” squealed a kid as the king of beasts lolled lazily in the sun. Another one was a tad worried “He’s been shot!” “No honey, he is fine,” assured Mommy. One kid had the final word. “Lions are boring,” she declared. We were at the Pittsburgh Zoo where the main attraction had decided to take an untimely nap.

The lioness hovered over the lion…she licked him and pawed him for a while. Maybe she was trying to tell him to wake up and do his bit for the visitors. I read somewhere that lions sleep for almost 20 hours a day.

There was this woman beside me who made a kind of tch tch noise in an attempt to wake up the sleeping animal. I turned my head and looked at her, a tad surprised. My disapproval must have been apparent because she promptly apologized.

Couple of things I liked about Pittsburgh zoo. The animals are kept in their natural habitat (well, as much as possible) and they looked well cared for.

Apart from the animals and birds and fishes, I like watching people react to our fellow creatures. The kids provide me with the best entertainment with their uncanny observations. Grown-ups are fun too. Our  curiosity and bravado is directly proportional to our distance from the wild beasts.

The zoo animals may live longer than their wild counterparts but I am still not sure I understand the concept. As far as I am concerned, captivity in any form sucks.

Dutch Diners near Pennsylvania

Glass Jars at the Dutch Pantry off I-80

On our road trip to Pittsburgh, we stopped at a couple of Dutch diners for a taste of American roadside food. Whenever my husband and I hit the road, we try and check out atleast one diner. If we don’t get the time or don’t like what we see, there’s always the golden arch of a Mc Donald’s drive-in.

Off Interstate 81 we found the Dutch Kitchen Restaurant. The food and service were good and the dining-car like interior was pretty cool. The placemats had red and white checks while the barstools had bright red tops. To top it all, every table had a juke box. Very American. Very charming.

On our way back we stopped by at the Dutch Pantry Family Restaurant off Interstate 80. Food and service was again good while the interior was packed with items for sale. We were served drinks in cute glass jars with handles. “We used to sell these earlier,” explained our waitress with a smile. I thought I spied “french fries” in my salad description and thought of giving it a shot. Sure enough, my salad had fries in it.  I for one am not complaining!

Pedal Pushing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

On my way to the Hot Metal Bridge. This was a particularly nice stretch before the detours began. Photo by Pinaki Chakraborty. All rights reserved © 

The long drive and the lack of fall foliage did not deter us from visiting Pittsburgh, which many claim to be the ultimate bike-friendly city. Renting a bike each from Golden Triangle Bike Rental, my husband and I set out to explore the city on two wheels. Due to some construction work, part of our trail had detours. This of course took away the pleasures of a non-motorized environment, especially for me as it was my first attempt at urban biking. The surfaces varied and so did my speed. We ran into rollerbladers, joggers, dog-walkers and plenty of people.

We locked our bikes at the base to ride the Duquesne Incline (cable car) which took us high above the city. From the observation deck, we got a great view of America’s steel city with its intersecting rivers, bridges and tall buildings. From our vantage point, the buildings looked like they are made from LEGO bricks. If you ask me, the huge yellow stadium stole the show. The famous Heinz stadium. Home to the Pittsburgh Steelers (members of NFL, America’s National Football League), it is hallowed ground for football fans. The residents of Pittsburgh take their football seriously. One in ten people wore the the black and yellow Pittsburgh Steelers jersey. Even toddlers in strollers wore the team colors!

Around sunset, we returned our loaners and headed back to the hotel. The car parking is close by the rental shop which is great when you are all sore and achy from a day of pedal pushing.

Back to Blogging

On the Mount Pisgah Trail in Northeast Kingdom, Vermont. Photo by Pinaki Chakraborty. All rights reserved ©

This is my second post since my first in August and I apologize for the gap. Meanwhile, I have been to Providence, hiked a few trails in New Hampshire and Vermont, learnt to use chopsticks, tried my hand at go-karting and made some new friends. But like Paul Theroux said, “Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.” It was not all fun and games. I have left out parts where we got lost, felt tired and fought over silly things.

Now that summer’s over, flavors like pumpkin latte is showing up in cafes and boots are making a comeback on the streets. It’s officially fall in New England.

Being from India, I look forward to the four seasons and enjoy the variations in colors and flavors. The change is subtle at first and then suddenly, the new season takes over. Each has its own distinct personality. Summer is like a young kid playing hooky and spring is a couple very much in love. Winter could be a Grandfather with silver white hair and autumn is the Grandma who invites the entire family over for a hearty dinner.

On the travel front, I have a ‘Ride the Rails’ trip coming up and if everything works out as planned, I will be blogging as I travel throught Montana and the northern Rockies!

The Town of Kent Tops the List

Covered Bridge near the entrance of the Kent Falls State Park in Connecticut, USA. Photo by Pinaki Chakraborty. All rights reserved ©

For the better part of the 19th century, Kent was one of Connecticut’s leading iron-producing towns. These days it is best described as “quaint”.

We have driven through the town a couple of times…once stopping at the super expensive Belgique Pâtisserie & Chocolatier mainly because it looked too inviting to drive by. Great collection of liquer filled hand-made chocolates but a tad too tiny to savor. One bite, and they are gone!

Minutes from the Chocolate Shop, there is the Kent Falls State Park which is way too crowded during summer and has no entry fee. Also, there are no trash cans inside the park so please “Carry In – Carry Out” to keep the place clean.

Recently Yankee Magazine voted Kent #1 of the “Top 25 Foliage Towns in New England”. Yes, in all of New England! Kent managed to beat the Mohawk trail and the scenic byways of New Hampshire. Talk about surprises!

Litchfield County, which is home to the town of Kent is pretty amazing with all its quintessential New England features like covered bridges and antique dives but whether it deserves the top spot for fall foliage remains to be seen.