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Tag: travel

Day 3: Zion National Park

Part 2: From Idaho to Page

Part 1: From Seattle to Idaho

Total Distance today: 0

Total Distance covered: 1370 miles

This post comes to you from the same vacation rental in Page, AZ. There has been no change in displacement and I haven’t done any driving ergo no change in mileage. The first half of this post was composed in Page, AZ. The second half was composed in Wyoming.

ren why y. –CeG <oBelIX>

Part 1: Sunrises

There was a very beautiful sunrise today which I slept through. This was disappointing. The plan, when I left was to see every sunrise and sunset. The first sunset was somewhere over Oregon. The first sunrise was missed because of a delayed wakeup. The second sunset was somewhere on NV 319. The second sunrise was missed because I slept through it. Again. This smells suspiciously like a pattern. However, I still have more sunrises to see!

Part 2: Arizona, US 89

The scenery is much better during the day. –CeG <oBelIX>

Cheap, ten dollar glasses break rather easily.

We drove back on US-89, the part that had been a drive from point A to point B. Today morning, well, morning tending to afternoon, we drove back on the same road. The road was far more beautiful in the day. The scenery is very vast and much drier and more canyon-ee. The canyons are strikingly similar to the ones in which Wiley Coyote engages in battle with Road Runner. They are like lines of altitude on a map. There is no straightness and no reason that I can fathom to their structure. There are isolated peaks on the horizon. These are occasionally pointy and sometimes white.

Scenery

Part 4: Zion National Park

Zomg.

This is a very good national park. At this point of time I got lost when composing this post. I did not know what I wanted to say. The answer was provided by a passage of Zen a couple of days later (somewhere in Utah) where the narrator talks about stuckness. I was stuck back then, in that little fake vrbo in Utah. I was totally stuck because I was in two places, I did not know what all I wanted to talk about and I did not know the order in which I wanted to talk about those things. This makes a difference – a fairly important difference – one that I know rather well – enumerating what all needs to be done is the first step in doing so. I will go ahead and write paragraphs for all the things I think are important from that day.

There is a tunnel. It was built a long time ago, such a long time ago that when I first heard of when it was built I was surprised. It is a marvel of engineering excellence from my point of view, to have had the technique to build such tunnels so long ago. Before I describe this tunnel though, it is necessary to describe how I got to this tunnel. I was driven there, in a SUV which seems to be a rather marvelous, this was a VW Tiguan and I feel it is rather nice, powerful, grippy (having never driven it ofcourse – the guy who has a thousand miles to drive till he gets back home had better not drive). I am still anti-SUV, they are rather big, rather fat and when one is driving one is far off the ground. However, the VW Tiguan (which is what I think it is – it might have been a Touareg) was better than any other SUV I’ve driven (except for a certain someone’s RAV4 – driving which I first realized how unexpected it is to not have a clutch pedal) has some oomph, some jazz, some ability to get its butt in gear and go when asked. The other group (there were a total of 9 of us in that VRBO in Page, AZ) were driving a Chevrolet which was an abomination. The one time I sat in it, the drive had to rev it till the engine whined and complained before it decided to get its butt in gear.

Coming back now to this tunnel: it is rather impressive. The road at the end is even more so. It is impressive in the sense that had I been driving I would not have felt the need to blast down it. This is partly due to the view surrounding the road and partly due to the old gentleman who was cycling uphill. The road goes through the canyon and the views are breathtaking. There is also the opportunity for listening to echoes here. I will point out though that going “mooo” in a deep guttural voice is not the best way to demonstate the echocity of the canyons.

ZNP has this amazing idea of using a shuttle service. It is actually very logical. Instead of having everybody drive all around they have designated the main road (think GTSR:GNP::this road:ZNP) as a road on which only shuttles are allowed. This helps control pollution and crowding and parking (which in India I would never have though as a problem). The shuttles leave from the visitor center and go up the ZNP scenic drive and stop at all the points on the way.

Part 4.5: ZNP continued – What to see and What not to see

The deer in ZNP are rather underfed. –CeG <oBelIX>

CeG <Butcher> defeats CeG<obelIX> at chess nowadays.

Due to circumstances that involved a basketball, a thigh and a pulled muscle I cannot describe Angel’s Landing which is the premier hike in ZNP. I will do this the next time I did in ZNP. However, given a basketball, a thigh and a pulled muscle, there is still a lot to see in ZNP. The bus ride itself is amazing. The roads are red. The canyon walls are tall. The river, while narrow, has a look of real menace. This is mostly because it is not the crystal clear streams in the PNW, it is also not the white water from rapids near Rainier, it is a chocolate sediment brown. It says, “I broke those canyons apart – are you sure you want to take off those shoes with blue shoelaces and step inside?” At the temple of Sinawava (yes, I know I have jumped ahead without defining what the fuck the Temple of Sinawava is but when you go to ZNP you will not need this) there is a riverwalk. It lets you walk along the Snake river to where it narrows. I could not go further up because it had flashed and flooded. It looked rather pretty though – totally worth doing.

There are other big stops on the bus though. There is the weeping rock which if you have gone to GNP will not seem spectacular. Infact, the only real thing I remember of this is a couple of cute kids with their parents. The kids were rather intelligent and young – of perhaps the age when crayons seem edible and hippopotami is an acceptable plural for hippopotamus. This should serve as some indication of my opinion of the weeping rock.

I had great expectations from the Emerald Pools. In the PNW, most lakes are named without much fanfare and far below their actual wow-factor. Colchuck is called Colchuck, not “Lake-Blow-Your -Mind-Away-With-My-Awesome-Turquoise-And-Chilly-Alpineness”. I saw the name “Emerald Pool” and it auto-expanded in my head as, “The-Pool-Where-The-Water-Is-This-Colour-Of-Green-That-Inspires-One-To-Write-Great-Essays.” Suffice to say this is not the case. Infact, I believe the Emerald Pools were thus named only because hallucinogenic substances were legal in Utah at the time the Emerald Pools were first discovered.

obelIX’s first law of waterfalls: The prettiness of a waterfall is no indication of the awesomeness of a hike.

Tldr: ZNP is worth seeing – there are many moments when I had to pause and take a breath and then carry on. This is due to the sheer vertical cliffs that the Virgin River has carved through the rock. There is quite a lot of rather useless trivia about how the river has done this in my head but I will not bore you with it).


Dieting is very common in ZNP.

Day 1: From Seattle to Idaho

Total Distance: 630 miles.

Total Time: ~10 hr

Total Time in Car: ~8.5 hr

This post comes to you from a cheap motel in Twin Falls, ID. Six Hundred and Thirty miles, give or take a few from Redmond. Day 1 of the road trip to Arizona. Let us go chronologically shall we.

Part 1: Departure

It takes a while to get onto I-90 from Redmond. –CeG <oBelIX>

Useful things to take on a road trip:

  • A radar detector
  • A GPS
  • Audio

If you are driving alone then you should have a fairly good idea of the route you need to take. Fortunately, my destination for the first day was in Idaho and a simple route. I-90 East to Ellensburg, I-82 till I-84 and then I-84 till Twin Falls. It is also useful to keep the following easily accessible (I keep them on the passenger seat):

  • Water
  • Tissue paper
  • Snacks (Haldiram’s Khatta Meetha)
  • Espresso Shots
  • Halls/Altoids

The trip itself started off bang on time and it took a long time to actually get on to I-90. Well, not a long time in terms of actual minutes but a long time in terms of the initial nervousness that makes ten minutes feel like twenty. Once on I-90 of course, the trip began in earnest. I will not talk much about I-90, it is a nice drive but by now the novelty of the scenery has worn off. The cascades did look beautiful, all the mountain tops were covered in clouds. There was a slow down near the lake where all the construction is going on and another near Ellensburg (there is always traffic there). Nonetheless, I made good time through I-90. It was tiring though, unintelligent of me to have not put on the sunglasses. I did listen to some nice music, courtesy of someone who I will refer to as Why. Among the songs I liked or remembered were:

  • Something by Gloria Gaydner, I forget the song right now
  • A song in Arabic, Albina or something like that
  • Eyes Like Yours
  • The song that goes, “I’m too sexy for this boat, too sexy for my shoes, too sexy for this hair, too sexy for the boots, too sexy for the water, too sexy for the moon” …

Part 2: Yakima

I-82 is pretty. –CeG <oBelIX>

By Ellensburg, the scenery has changed. The greenery has reduced. There is more bush. There is more scrubbery (if there is shrubbery and there can be scrubs then why is Microsoft Word ™ putting red squiggley lines under scrubbery). I-82 off from I-90 at around Ellensburg and immediately climbs over a few hills. The last time I drove this road it was 5AM and I was returning from a night of meteor gazing at Goldendale (something I highly recommend doing). Anyway, there is a viewpoint which is not as epic as it looks and a road which is rather nice. Continuing onwards the scenery gets much better. The hills have a little more brutishness in them, the scrubs are fewer and fewer and you can see more of the rocks. There is an exit that says “Military Base” which looks like something CeG<xirtam> may try. This is the part where the drive started to get interesting – up till now it had been routine. Infact, one of the laws of drivingness, and I am sure I am discovering these, is that the enjoyment factor of a drive is inversely related to whether the road is one you have travelled before.

I-82 continues past this gorgeous, desert (well, far more desert-like than the other side of the Cascades) scenery and into Yakima valley where there is greenery. Not tall pine trees greenery but smaller farm greenery. There are lots of hoardings for wine places and other such “Tourist Activities”. At this time, I was listening to NPR which in this area is on 88.9 FM. It gave me an idea of how plugged out I was, there was apparently a vote in the British Parliament and David Cameron was slapped on the face (figuratively of course – Why will tell me if I misused figuratively over there) and told “Don’t go messing around in Syria.” The IRS has decided that it will allow same sex couples the same benefit as different sex couples regardless of whether the state they are in (by state I mean Geographical state in case some of you are inebriated while reading this and parse that as a state of matter – ala – solid, liquid, gas, bose-einstein condensate). Anyway, it was nice listening to NPR.

The only other thing of interest that happened was the radar detector paying off yet again. It beeped as I was about to crest a hill and I got the car back down to a sensible 75 from 80 (I don’t speed much in Washington State) and lo, behold, there was a cop, sitting in the bushes, in the middle of the road, waiting for someone to come over the hill at speed and ticket him (or her – for my readers with strong feminist tendencies – I do not have any presumption that the fairer sex is not prone to going fifteen-twenty over the speed limit).

Part 3: Oregon

I like Oregon. –CeG <oBelIX>

By now, I was tired. Well, by tired, I mean mostly irritated at not having worn sunglasses and it was reasonably bright outside. And about this time is when I entered Oregon. I-82, enters Oregon across the Columbia river with much more fanfare than I-5. At I-5 there is the city of Vancouver that stands as a big bright billboard stating, “Hey You, Portland is coming”. On I-82 there is no such city. There is a board that says, “Weigh station”. You go over a small hill. You see an expanse of blue divide the landscape in two. And then you see two bridges, one for each side of the carriageway. These are nice bridges, they have arches that look yellow, a nice yellow ochre which goes well against the blue of the river. Ergo, I state that I-82 is a nicer entry into Oregon than I-5.

I-82 merges into I-84 and I took the road East – this was the last major route change I needed to make and there is about 180 odd miles of driving in Oregon on I-84. The speed limit is 65 which is woefully incorrect and I moseyed along at a nice 80 miles to the hour with absolutely no indication of the police (this includes the band as well). The first part of I-84 in Oregon was flat and farmland and it climbed over some hills where there was a view point. This view point would have been really nice had the sun been lower on the horizon. Unfortunately, that was not the case and the sun was fairly bright making any kind of photography a pointless exercise. So, I got back into the car and hit the road.

At this point, I will bitch about the iPod. It took me practically forever to get the damn thing setup last ngiht, and download the audiobook (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) on to the blessed thing (the Audible version is very good for 12 dollars). When plugged in to the car, it would skip and made this horrible whine. In the end, I ditched the iPod and used my old old Kindle to play the audiobook.

Part 4: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The first time I read this book I was perhaps in school. I skimmed through it and hardly understood a word. The second time I read this book I was wiser. I understood some bits of it but the most important understanding was that I would need to read it again to understand more of it. This trip, especially with its few thousand miles of driving alone seems like the perfect time to indulge. The audiobook from audible is also well narrated and the narrator has a deep-ish voice and good enunciation. It is not like jarring heavy metal and is pleasing to the ear.

I will not describe the book here in any form of detail. This is mostly because when driving on a nice empty road with an audio book playing I usually tend to listen in a very different sense of the word listen. It’s going on in the background, my mind is rather empty, devoid of absolutely anything. Every once in a while a phrase will register, like when the narrator talks about how if human consciousness is a river then in earlier eras it had a well defined course and in the twentieth century it has overflown it’s banks or when he mentions how he takes back country roads because it is about making good time with the emphasis being on good and not time. It is very difficult to recall exactly what was said in the book but since the mind is not listening actively the words are being processed and stored at a far more intrinsic level. The understanding will be greater when something in the future hits the right spot and brings it back up.

I just re-read that last paragraph. I guess I am tired but perhaps I will elaborate on it some other day. Or perhaps, as that is rather against the nature of this blog I will take it out all together.

Part 5: Oregon and Idaho

I-84 is a nice highway –CeG<oBelIX>

Idaho is flat with a chance of hills! –CeG <oBelIX>

I have said this before, in a post about Portland IIRC. I-84 East of Portland is beautiful to drive. There are hills and the Columbia river. After Hermiston, I-84 today was fun to drive as well. After all that view point and farmland stuff. There is a point where it gets hilly and goes through a set of mountains. The road here is beautiful, even for a dual carriageway interstate. I was wishing I was on something more like a state highway, a two lane road where the turns would be far more fun to take. Regardless, it was joyous to drive this at around 8 in the evening when there was little to no traffic. The mountains or hills that I am taking about were when I was 400 odd miles out of Redmond.

Immediately after these mountains is the border between Idaho and Oregon. It was dark by now and I was tired and hence this was more on autopilot. Also, in Boise Idaho, the radar detector found a cop who followed me all through Boise waiting for the moment that I would step on the throttle and go above 65. I kept it at 60 and outwaited him. It is important to note that if you have a different interpretation of the speed limit than the gentlemen who drive the big dodge chargers with lights on them, do invest in a radar detector. It has already paid back its money’s worth in tickets. And if you know me then just send me a message, I’d be happy to lend it to you if I am not using it.

There is much more to say but I am tired now and it is 2AM Mountain Standard Time. Tomorrow is many more miles of driving, listening to Phaedrus and the Great Basin National Park.

The Oregon Coast – II

I drove this last year – The Oregon Coast. This year, @roh4n had come up to Seattle and wanted to drive back and of course, while blasting down the interstate does get you to San Fransisco faster, it is much less scenic. So, we did the following ~900 mi:

image

We left on a Friday, at around 5:30 in the evening, fully aware that traffic near that ugly place where there is an upside-down-bowl-of-concrete would be terrible. Still, it made sense and we did end up getting into Portland at around 8:30-ish. Now, traditionally I’ve been a fan of Chennai Masala in Hillsboro, one Rava Dosa and a filter coffee can keep me going for a bit but this time we headed over to the Bollywood Theater. There was a line, which was to be expected, a Friday evening. The décor was brilliant, the ambience doubly so. It felt real without really being overdone. The ads in the bathroom were epic:

 

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I will not translate this

 

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and I liked the devnagiri font over there

The food was decent. I wouldn’t really drive over to Portland to eat it again (unlike Bombay Chaat which is a foodtruck that serves heavenly chaat). If you are here though then do order the Kathi Roll. Also, this was the first time in a long time that I had trouble finishing food on the table.

 

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dinner … pav bhaji to the right where the bhaji lacked spice and dahi-papdi to the left which had some masala that felt incorrect

 

It was at this time night and there was fog and we drove on I5, continuing past Salem and Eugene. This part of the drive was uneventful, relaxing. The traffic had thinned and people were driving sensibly despite the fog. Somewhere past Eugene we turned onto OR-38 which is another one of those brilliant roads in Oregon. Last year, I had driven West on OR-42 in the wee hours of the morning with the sun rising behind me and it had been memorable. This year, at midnight I was driving west on a very similar road. There was a little bit of fog, the Umpqua river next to us for the most part and mountains. I am sure this road is brilliant during the day, scenic and beautiful but at night the experience was exhilarating. We turned onto 101 and halted at “The Best Western” in Coos Bay for the night.

The next morning after breakfast we headed south on US-101.

 

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weird car parked at a grocery store – I forget what groceries we got

 

it was a gloomy, overcast day.

 

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windy as hell

 

at the first cape that we stopped at.

I’ll take a moment here to chit-chat about what I think is a good way to do the Oregon coast.

Step 1: Get a nice car. This is important if you like to drive.

Step 2: Wait for December end or January. This is important if you want the road to yourself and free from random grandmothers

Step 3: Drive either North or South on 101

Step 4: When you see a sign-post saying “Vista Point” or “Cape **** State Park” put on your turn-signal and pull over

Step 5: Step outside the car.

Step 6: Marvel at the sheer power of the Pacific

Step 7: Feel the wind through your sweatshirt and your jacket

Step 8: Breathe!

Step 9: Rinse and repeat till you see a signboard that says either, “Welcome to California” or “Welcome to Washington”

This is pretty much what we did.

 

foam and surf

 

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US-101 and the Pacific

 

We eventually hit the town of Gold Coast which is approached by a rather decent looking bridge. It has a beach, which at this time was deserted. I suspect it would be a nice place to visit during the summer as well.

 

This is a rather good photo

 

The Pincochio Hippo. Yes, I was lazy, drew it with my foot.

 

You never get tired of the views!

 

and the ocean

 

and the road

It should be noted that there is a small part for which 101 does leave the coast and goes around a hill, Humbolt or Humtumps or Hum something or the other. Be awake, this little bit is incredibly beautiful with small streams and a different shade of green and quiet.

 

Eventually though, Oregon ended. California began. 101 becomes a different road out here and gradually transitions to a carrier of people. We did however, get off 101 and head onto this brilliant road called, “Avenue of The Giants”. Cut through redwoods and going along some type of water-body (a river and then a lake), in foggy weather it was beautiful.

 

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glomp – that is just amazing road

 

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the river I was talking about

 

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Redwoods are tall. Really tall. I took this looking vertically up. Makes you think a lot.

 

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no description required.

 

Eventually though, it became dark, the redwoods became normal trees and then grasses. The rain started to come down like a torrent. The drivers started to drive like idiots. The rest of the drive after sunset was just a grind, counting down the miles to San Francisco and dinner (which was rather nice, at Dosa on Filmore).

That is now, twice in two years. Ty, Oregon!

Philadelphia

I got a new phone. It’s a Lumia 920. It has a very good camera. Being rather bored in Seattle, where it is cold and wintery and rainy I decided to plop over to the other side of the continent to meet a friend who studies at the University of Pennsylvania. It was one of the better decisions I’ve made in the recent past. The rest of this post talks about food, aeroplanes, movies, art, history and walking.

 

I left Seattle on a rather rainy Friday morning, at an hour that I consider ungodly. After a ride in a taxi with a driver who had spent 10 years in Japan and thought very highly of Indian cinema, after a suprisingly painless experience at security that only involved taking off my shoes, belt, jacket, laptop I was on board an Alaskan airlines flight and I took the photo above. I was rather pleased with it, the camera managed to do exactly what I had asked of it – photograph the drops of water on the window.

 

It was bright for all of the duration of the flight. I was very pleased and looking forward to spending a weekend in sunshine. Also, I’m just showing off the camera. The plane then dipped below the clouds and Philadelphia.

Unfortunately, it was 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Overcast. Drizzling. Philadelphia airport does nothing to distinguish itself. There is a severe lack of space as in all airports – it is designed for utility. There is nothing wrong with it, there is just not much that makes you feel warm and cheery after a long flight. I used to think all airports are like this until I disembarked at San Francisco earlier in November this year. SF airport is spacious and bright and welcoming. There is nice music in the restrooms, like a sultry seductress’ serenade. I took a train to their University District, or University City – everything in Philly is a city. The train was old and had conductors which was surprising to see. The airport was actually the low point of the trip – it all got better so fast.

 

U Penn, is ivy-league, home to a lot of rich kids – which is why food trucks that deliver hot cookies to your hostel make sense

 

We had dinner at Zahav, this fancy middle-eastern place. I haven’t eaten in many fancy places and actually had no conception of what the food here would be like. The walk to Zahav was three miles through the University, Downtown Philly, the rich affluent housing area of Philly, the old Jewish quarter of Philly and then Zahav. The place is beautifully decorated – there are diwans and cylindrical pillows and very Turkish looking curtains. There was a chandelier, well, more of a lamp, made out of some blue metal, hanging from the ceiling, in the center of the room. The table was copper or bronze, dimpled like a golf ball. Our waitress was knowledgeable but snobby – perhaps it was my  hair but she had made this assumption that we were uneducated normal people with run-of-the-mill palettes.

The food was an experience. There were six kinds of salads, the picture above. The most interesting was the one made of eggplant – a salad of eggplant which was actually surprisingly good. The pita bread was fresh, hot off the oven and the humus was divine. The second best part of the meal were these spheres of lamb (I desist from using the term lamb-balls because of certain uncultured readers of this blog). They were the perfect blend of spice and meat. I will not use the “dissolve in the mouth” cliché. They did not. Infact, they just waited for the appropriate amount of time on the tongue, just long enough to understand the flavour and the spice and then melted. Brilliant.

—-

The walk back was interesting until it was cut short by a minor downpour which caused us to get into a Philadelphia taxicab. Taxicabs in Philadelphia have wide rear seats which can accomdate four people of my build and a glass partition separating the driver from the passenger.

washington square.

 

liberty bell. yes I did see it. no I do not know much about it’s history

 

the streets of philadelphia

The next day was overcast but not raining and was spent walking around. A must see place is the Reading Terminal Market – with its eateries and food shops. There is a creperie there – some of the best crepes I’ve eaten. Oh, and while walking around in Philly, do not be surprised to see black gentlemen at intersections proclaim loudly into loudspeakers, “Jesus is coming”, “The end is near” and other chantings of an apocalyptic-return-of-the-big-guy nature.

 

Philadelphia is old. Full of nice buildings

 

and ridiculous cars

 

and Chinatown

 

and streets that are forlorn and lonely in the winter

 

Our target was Penn’s landing – the place where William Penn landed and founded Pennsylvania. It is by no means a spectacular, stunning waterfront. Especially on a gray day – it just looks gloomy – I dislike water bodies that do nothing to cheer you up. The Philadelphians do not care for it either, the big neon signboard proclaiming Penn’s landing had only a few of the letters lit up.

 

 

What appears to be a lounging area of the general population. Devoid of people on that day. That river is the Delaware. There is another river in Philadelphia called the Skychupnawanapoppitipompom.

 

There is a military ship in the background on the river.

 

leaving Penn’s landing we meandered through the old quarters of Philadelphia, full of red-brick houses and more forlorn streets.

 

 

there was extremely good coffee over here – must try place

 

there was also this utterly lame museum of art made out of trash. ditch it.

 

one of the main streets, the city hall is shrouded in fog.

 

and there are a lot of interesting sculptures there

—-

Most of the last day was spent at the Philadelphia Art Museum and eating. I will not taunt you people with details of the food – suffice to say it was homemade and divine. The art museum is an old building (I like old buildings) and has a few nice paintings (of bridges and snow and mountains and water). It is not a particularly impresive museum but go here if you’ve got nothing to do. The walk back from the Museum, along the waterfront is nice!

 

the main staircase

 

the façade of the museum – columns – I like

 

I do not understand modern art.

 

and it’s a very nice walk back!

 

Overall, Philadelphia is fun. If only for a weekend. The food is amazing. It’s great to just walk around. U Penn is very likable. I approve!