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Idaho: Shoshone Falls, Sun Valley, Craters of the Moon

Just the facts:

STATE: Idaho
NICKNAME: Gem State
FOOD EATEN: Potatoes. HAHA, jk. I went to Twin Falls Sandwich Company in (surprise) Twin Falls and Cristina’s Restaurant in Sun Valley
PLACES VISITED: Shoshone Falls (via Twin Falls), Sun Valley (via Ketchum and Hailey), Craters of the Moon
GOOGLE MAPS ILLUSTRATION: Potato farmer
PHOTOS: HERE


For those who don’t know, I’m on the road before I head off to grad school. While I could make things a heck of a lot easier for myself and stay in one location, I did have a bucket list item I wanted to complete, come hell or high water. Or, rather I had 13 bucket list items that I wanted to complete, and those were all the states I hadn’t yet visited:

  1. Idaho
  2. North Dakota
  3. South Dakota
  4. Nebraska
  5. Kansas
  6. Oklahoma
  7. Minnesota
  8. Iowa
  9. Arkansas
  10. Mississippi
  11. Alabama
  12. Georgia
  13. Vermont

This is probably a terrible time to mention that I haven’t driven regularly since I was in high school, right?

While most of these states can geographically be grouped together, it did mean that I was going to have to zigzag my way through the US. To go out of my way just to hit up Idaho OR Vermont makes zero sense to the average person, but hey, I’m committed.

In fact, the first state I checked off was Idaho. There are two things I know about Idaho, and those are (1) potatoes and (2) Napoleon Dynamite.

Speaking of which, it’s been 13 years since Napoleon Dynamite was a thing?!

Unfortunately, I didn’t quite make it to Preston, and after hours of driving through the Tahoe/Reno area and bits of Nevada along I-80, I was quite happy to see some form of civilization in the form of Twin Falls, ID: home to Chobani yogurt and CLIF bars!

Mostly, I was just plain hungry, hence this chicken pesto panini from the Twin Falls Sandwich Company, with lots of fries because being in Idaho warrants a metric crapton of potatoes.

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Appropriately fueled up for the rest of the leg, I eventually made it to our first real destination: Shoshone Falls! Dubbed the “Niagara of the West” but careful enough to disassociate themselves with the tourist kitsch that defines the real Niagara we know and love (to hate), Shoshone Falls boasts the type of waterfalls that TLC told you not to chase:

channeling TLC ⛲

A post shared by cindy! 🙋🏻‍♀️ (@cindypepper) on

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That night, we drove to Sun Valley, aka the ski area where Ernest Hemingway used to spend his winter vacays. By May though, Ketchum and its surrounding environs were quiet with little residual mounds of snow, which is to be expected when the ski season is already over, but that didn’t stop us from walking around the main town, Ketchum*, the next day and grabbing coffee and a meal at Cristina’s:

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DAT RIGATONI was excellent (10/10 would eat again), and a good walking distance away from Ketchum Cemetery, where you can find the graves of Hemingway & co, should you know where to look:

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We then headed to the Hemingway Memorial at Trail Run, which is nestled between a park and a golf course.

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That afternoon saw us driving out of Sun Valley and onto our next Idahoan destination: Craters of the Moon! A national monument and preserve in central Idaho, Craters of the Moon is an endless expanse of dark volcanic ruins. Equal parts weird and stunning, Craters is made of dark lava flows, cinder cones, and sagebrush that look both futuristic and jurassic.

As we walked along the trails, the landscape looked largely like this:

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with the occasional trees poking out:

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with a few ice caves:

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Like, damn, Idaho. Who woulda thunk that you’d be able to come across this post-apocalyptic aesthetic in this neck of the woods?

*Yes, of course I thought of Pokemon. What, you think I was just going to roadtrip and not play Pokemon Go?

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

POUND THE ALARM, is this a real life update?

So, hi. It’s me.

If I haven’t seen you in the past two months (which is highly likely, given how ridiculously hermitic I’ve become), do I have an update for you.

A month ago, I left my first “real-world” job at Google, one I’d had for the past 5+ years, to go back to school. (Yes, it’s the same job I’ve had since I announced, way-back-when in July 2011, that I’d be moving cross-country from New York to San Francisco. Boy, has time flown by!)

Which is to say: I’m pleased as punch to announce that I’ll be attending the design program at STANFORD (!!!!!), where I’ll be for the next two years!

Am I excited?

The short answer: Hell yeah!

The longer answer: Hell yeah! But of course, it’s bittersweet to leave behind the first job and neighborhood and life that I’ve had since leaving college. I technically won’t be moving too far, but after a decade of living in a city, moving to the suburbs of Palo Alto will be an adjustment. There will, in fact, be a lot of adjustments, from not relying on free food at Google to dorm life to having things called classes. How do you all-nighter again?

So, here’s the gameplan. Anybody who’s known me in some capacity of familiarity knows that I travel — well, a lot, so it should come as zero surprise to y’all that I’m going nomadic and spending the months between now and Stanford.

May – June: I’m driving cross-country, with a primary goal of visiting all the states I’ve never been to (Idaho! The Dakotas! All of Middle America! Vermont!). If you’ve recommendations for Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Vermont, I’d be happy to hear them! I’m also making my rounds through the Midwest, the East Coast, and bits of Canada. Bonus points if any of your recs involve using a National Parks Pass:

As of now, my roadtrip has taken a turn for the south (literally speaking, thank god), and I’m currently in Little Rock, ready to begin the Southern leg of my trip (Arkansas – Mississippi – Alabama – Georgia), just after finishing up the Mountain timezone and Great Plains legs. So if any of those number markers look familiar, send your recs my way!

Late June: New York!

July: I’m then off to South Africa, with stops in Victoria Falls and Seychelles. I’ll be hitting up Cape Town and Joburg, where I’ll be for roughly two weeks, before I head to Morocco for ten days.

August: It’s back to New York for about a week, and then it’s Brazil, where I’m finally finally going to Rio, among other places. But mostly Rio, because how the hell have I been to Brazil twice and still not managed to have set foot in Rio?

September: WHAT’S GOOD, Western Europe! My endgame is to hit up the first weekend of Oktoberfest, which is my last weekend before I need to move back to California. As for everything else in between, welllll. I’ve got London on the list, but this is the one that’s most flexible, aka HI I DIDN’T BUY MY PLANE TICKETS HAHAHA.

And then it’s school time.

So. I’m committed to updating this more regularly, especially since New and Exciting™ Things are happening in my life that are worth documenting. For a more real-time update experience, I’m on Instagram as (surprise, surprise) cindypepper. For everything else, there’s MasterC—

Wait, wrong commercial.

Central Asia, Part 5: Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Hey! Hi! SUP. Yo. You’re reading about a trip that took place 11 months ago (May – June 2015), which means that I am sadly no longer in Central Asia. However, the trip was awesome enough that I feel compelled to write about it in a series of blog posts, because it’s unsurprisingly … kind of difficult to write about three different countries and so many different experiences’ worth of text and consolidate that sucker into one blog entry. Also, I’m likely a) nostalgic, b) itching to travel again, c) guilty about having so many orphaned photos on my HD, or d) all of the above. HERE WE GO.


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Our bags packed and ready to go, Rebekah and I were on the train to our second Uzbek destination: Samarkand! Was I excited or was I really freaking excited that I could now visit the one elusive place that refused to be crossed off my travel bucket list. If there was one place that inspired this entire trip, it was Samarkand, the historic town that became an UNESCO site for being the Crossroads of Cultures, the Silk Road hub, the capital of the Timurid empire … the list goes on and on. If Bukhara felt like a town that was pulled out and recreated from a time-machine and Tashkent felt like a modern city breaking out of its post-Soviet shadow, then Samarkand was an intersection of the two. There were a lot more cars! Bars! (Granted, this wasn’t exactly pub crawl territory, but there were at least more signs of life during the nighttime.) People! Like this gent below:

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The man above, Timur / Tamerlane / Amir Temur, was the leader whose dynasty had revolved around Samarkand (and overall, Persia/Central Asia) and whose statue now watches over one of Samarkand’s biggest intersections. He also has a pretty awesome mausoleum dedicated to him:

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Gur-e-Amir (also known as the Amir Temur Mausoleum) is a mausoleum (duh) that contains the tombs of Amir Temur himself, his sons, grandsons, and teacher. Only the foundations, entrance portal, and one of the four minarets remain, but even what’s been left (and restored) is nothing short of stunning. Can we talk about how incredible the azure mosaics are? Or the intricate patterns on those domes, because damn, son. And to think, we got to walk past this beaut day in and day out as we ventured outside.

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In fact, the first day was largely spent visiting mosques, mausoleums, and minarets (the three Ms), and honestly something you could have made an entire trip out of. We had hit up Amir Temur Mausoleum as shown above, Bibi Khanym Mosque, Shakhi Zinda, Ulugh Beg Observatory, and Rukhabat Mausoleum, in a day, making good use of our walking shoes and sunscreen. By the time we passed by the crown jewel of Samarkand, Registan Square, we had only enough energy to buy ice cream sandwiches and plop down on the nearby park chairs and people watch. Which, to be fair, blows all other summer afternoons out of the water, when you’ve got a view like this:

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The main public square of Samarkand, Registan Square is to Samarkand as Times Square is to New York, even though that’s a gross comparison to make because Registan doesn’t feel like a tourist-ridden hell, despite being the main go-to for tourists.

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Ulugh-Beg Madrasah

A wide sprawling square, Registan is flanked on three sides by madrasahs, which were actually schools! With dorms and colleges and lecture halls — the whole she-bang. Look, I’ve visited plenty of gorgeous college campuses before and have studied at a university with an impressive neoclassical-style campus, but going purely off architecture here, the Ulugh Beg Madrasah (above) might just school all the other schools out there.

Also, I’m not sure if I’d get enough schoolwork done, because I’d likely do what I did the first day and eat ice cream all afternoon on the grass. Not that this was terribly different from what I did on weekday afternoons in college, but.

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Tilya-Kori Madrasah

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Sher-Dor Madrasah. Check out them tiger mosaics!

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Also, don’t these close-up shots make you so mad? These mosaics, man.

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Inside Registan Square, there are several bazaars tucked away where you can buy different goods and souvenirs to bring home.

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As you can tell by the bajillion photos that I just posted, Registan was so fucking big that it totally justified Rebekah and I spending our entire second day there. However! We of course needed enough nutrition and sustenance to last us in the 90-degree desert heat, and Uzbek food happens to be such a largely-untapped goldmine of carb-fueled cuisine that it deserves its own mention. Standouts included:

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Lagman. We ate this in Bishkek, but in Uzbekistan, they were generous with the dill and this one was more soupy, like the type of dish you’d want if you were stuck inside during a particularly cold day. Cold-weather comfort food, if you will.

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When paired with non (Uzbek bread), it’s carby heaven. Also, non is etymologically similar to naan, so of course it’d make sense that all carbohydrate-y goodness happens to be related.

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Manti are traditional Turkic dumplings about the size of a fist. Usually topped with butter or cream, they contain lamb meat with added fat for all that savory goodness.

My absolute favourite Uzbek dish, though?

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Plov, hands down.

As a general fan of rice (having grown up on that stuff as a kid), I’m already naturally predisposed to love plov. If you take any dish with a rice base, and add garlic, carrots, chickpeas, and lamb, consider me sold. However, in Uzbekistan, plov is a national institution. It’s the national dish, of course, which already gives it some legitimacy, but there are cult-like levels of enthusiasm where there are restaurants that make large batches of plov and only plov and they sell out before noon. Could you imagine if that happened with every brunch place in America?

Fun fact: plov = pilaf. Rice pilaf, get it?

Weirdly enough, the plov game was strongest in Tashkent, where there are incidentally a higher concentration of cafes and restaurants and of course, a much larger demand. But more on that in my next post! I’m already getting hungry just waxing nostalgic about it.

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A photo posted by Cindy (@cindypepper) on

A photo posted by Cindy (@cindypepper) on

A photo posted by Cindy (@cindypepper) on

A photo posted by Cindy (@cindypepper) on