Sunday, July 15, 2012

2012 Trip to America

Jeong Mi and I got home for the first time in two years during the last week of June and first week of July. It was well worth the wait, too. We packed as much as we absolutely could into the time, including new sites for Jeong Mi and meeting family and friends.

First and foremost, if you're traveling all the way to America or Canada, get ready to spend. Even by avoiding a direct flight, you're still digging deep into your pockets for the ticket price. And in an attempt to save some money, we had to go through more transfers than we would have liked.

The Plane Ride to America

Let me start by saying we had really good fortune with flights both home and back to Korea. We ran into zero delays, had smooth flights and had no luggage issues. Since we knew we would be in Franklin at Mom and Dad's place every three or four days, we only had to pack enough clothes for that. With that in mind, we decided against checking luggage. Wow. If you get a chance to go that route, snatch it up. It saved us a ton of time and headaches.

To get home, we went through Tokyo, then Chicago and then to New York City. It wasn't ideal, but again, all went pretty smoothly.

New York City

New York, for a first time visitor, is everything is seems in movies. It's big, exciting, busy, dirty, smelly and hot (in the summer). Some of it is great. Some of it adds character. Some of it is disgusting. But I suppose it's that way with any big city. And since I've been to NYC quite a few times, a lot of the charm has gone away. But it was great to take Jeong Mi around for her first time.

As far as big touristy things, we went to the top of the Empire State Building, rode the Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty, went to Coney Island and walked through Times Square and Central Park.

Because my brother lives in Astoria, we also got some of the local flavor. We also got to hang with some of my buddies from Pitt. It was great to see everyone again and hang out.

Franklin, PA and Pittsburgh

Franklin, about 90 miles north of Pittsburgh, is a town stuck in time. And I mean that as a compliment. There are about 6,000 people, a beautiful small downtown main street, mountains, trees and rivers. It's an incredible area of the country.

We took the time at home to relax as much as possible. We took in the small shops, coffee places and restaurants, but we also just rested.

The Wednesday after we got home, we headed to a neighboring city -- Sharon, PA -- so we could have dinner with some Uncles and Aunts. While there, we got to see my grandparents, have a nice Italian meal and go to a Bike Night. Bike Nights are obviously a rare attraction in Korea. So to head to Quaker Steak and Lube to see all the motorcycles and the ... let's just say style ... of the people, was a ton of fun.

On Thursday, we made our way down to Pittsburgh to see some of my best friends. In the past, we took advantage of Thursday to go to 80s Night at my favorite bar. But I guess time has a big effect on everybody. No one was really up for the late night at 80s Night. Such is life.

But we still got to hang out and play some darts with good friends.

On Saturday, we had a big party at our place. June 26 is both our anniversary and my birthday. This is one year for us. So Mom and Dad hosted a big open house party. A ton of family and friends came to celebrate with us. It was great -- especially after two years -- to see as many family and friends as possible, all in one place. We're so grateful to everyone who came in to see us and wish us well.

Niagara Falls

The very next day, our adventure continued. We headed up through Erie to my sister's church. We saw her run the show and then jumped in the car for the quick ride up to Niagara Falls.

Niagara Falls truly is one of the natural wonders of the world. It's a beautiful site, and worth seeing at least once in your life. I'm fortunate to have grown up in an area that is about three hours from the falls, so I've been there a ton of times. Once again, this was a first trip to the Falls for Jeong Mi.

We had it coincidentally timed that we were in Niagara Falls on Canada Day. So a place that is normally a zoo, was ten times so. But we did all the fun stuff, and even stayed in a hotel on Clifton Hill -- one of the main tourist strips.

We rode the Maid of the Mist and did the Journey Behind the Falls. In the evening, we got some poutine (I know it's Niagara Falls poutine, but it was still great) and hit up and Karaoke bar that was literally touching our hotel. I put my name in the hat, and we waited for about an hour. But I was just too tired. They hadn't called mu name by then, so it was time for bed.

The next day, we drove by the Falls once more and made our way back toward Franklin.

Back to the 'Burgh

We headed back down to Franklin for a day of rest. And on Tuesday, it was back to Pittsburgh for a Pirates baseball game. We went down a little bit early and showed Jeong Mi the University of Pittsburgh, where I went to school. While it's just a university, it's unique in that it has the second tallest education building in the world (tallest in the Western hemisphere). The Cathedral of Learning is 36 stories and houses various classrooms and department offices.

We went to one of the local college bars and had some pizza fries and super tasty and inexpensive beer. I mean -- seriously -- $6 for an entire pitcher of Yeungling. That is absolutely awesome.

Fourth of July

I think Jeong Mi has been in America for the Fourth of July, but she was on the west coast. This was her first time to experience in a small town. We grilled up some buffalo burgers (which we bought from a buffale farm on the way home from the falls) and had a lot of good food for a barbecue. We then crossed the street from our house and sat by the river to watch the fireworks, before lighting some sparklers and tanks in the backyard.

Playing on the Lake

On Thursday, some family friends invited us to a place nearby called Conneaut Lake, where we could do some boating, jet skiing and just some hanging out. It was a lot of fun, and a great way to start winding out trip down.

Last Night in Franklin

That Friday would be our last night in my hometown. We met one more time with a great friend of mind, and just relaxed. It was a fitting last day to our trip.

Flying Back to Incheon

On Saturday, we got on a plane at 6 a.m. and left for South Korea. Fortunately, we only had to transfer once in San Francisco. It was a piece of cake. When we got back in, we crashed for the evening. I got up late and spent a few hours at LB doing some budget work. It was then back to work and normal life on Monday.

Wonderful Trip

There were really no bad issues, or even stress, with our trip this time around. We saw a lot of great sites, saw family and friends and had a super fun time.

We were fortunate to have our good friend, MOB, run the bar while we gone. Even though the kitchen was closed, MOB served drinks and hosted the usual weekly events. From what we've seen and heard, all went well while we gone.

Knowing he can run the show with no problem gives us hope for a few more weekend-type vacations in the future.

What a great trip! Thank you to everyone!!! We love you guys -- both in Korea and America!!!

Check out all our pictures:

America Trip 1

America Trip 2

America Trip 3