Traveling through 7 states and one district

On Saturday the 5th, Ali and I got the station wagon packed up and we hit the road toward Pennsylvania. We stopped for a breakfast snack along the way and got a couple of the breakfast wraps from Subway. They were entirely awful and expensive relative to the modest amount of food and low quality. The bacon was chewy like a dog treat, the egg was flavorless, the cheese tasted fake, and the tomato pieces I got on mine had so much dye to make them red that a few drops stained my shirt. What a way to start the vacation, eh?

Fortunately we stopped for lunch at Selin's Grove Brewing Co. (121 North Market St., Selinsgrove, PA) for lunch. It was excellent. We had a buffet of assorted appetizers — all of which were coincidentally vegetarian. Next stop was American Vintage Bed and Breakfast (5740 Thompson Rd., Stewartstown, PA) where we were staying for the night. We planned to relax in the hot tub but ended up talking with the proprietor for a few hours instead on all sorts of things. It was great fun. We were in the area for Ali's niece's and nephew's Baptism and we went to her brother's house later on. We got back to the B&B late but got into the hot tub anyway and had a relaxing soak. I guess technically it's a "spa" which is different from a "hot tub" and different from a "Jacuzzi" — it had water jets and a pump but the water temperature could only go up to 104°F which was fine by me.

Sunday started with an excellent homemade breakfast at the B&B. Then it was off to the Baptism so we went to church for the morning service. It was a "progressive" church so they had a rock band that wasn't bad, although like every other Christian rock band I've ever seen, subtlety and metaphor apparently do not concern the songwriters. The service itself was pretty good although a bit light-handed when it came to encouraging people to be more like Jesus. We were all quite amused at the suggestion to embrace the Holy Spirit by "sucking face with Jesus". I guess it's not just Barack Obama's preacher who says some peculiar things.

Monday morning I managed to squeeze in a barefoot run around the neighborhood. It was hillier than where I usually run and I think that running down a hill is how I ended up with a blood blister on the ball of my right foot. Thankfully it didn't hurt much at all. Later that day we explored an antiques store in the nearby town and went to Brown's Orchards and Farm Market (8892 Susquehanna Trail South, Seven Valleys, PA) which is a neat, sizable farm market.

Tuesday we headed out from there and went to Washington D.C. to visit with my brother, Adam. He was still at work but set us up with parking at his apartment building. He suggested we check out Lindy's Red Lion (2040 I St. NW, Washington, DC) for lunch. We took the metro — the stop is a block away from Adam's apartment — to the Foggy Bottom stop near George Washington University Hospital (2300 I St. NW, Washington, DC). Lindy's had great food at cheap prices. I had their hamburger topped with with fried onions and ranch dressing … so good. From there we started walking.

We passed The White House (1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC) which I found to be a bit creepy because of the security — I had the feeling that everyone was treated like an enemy of the state. Maybe if it was guarded more like a national treasure than like a military compound then I'd think differently. In any case, we headed around the corner and got to the National Mall. Even though it was only an hour before closing, we decided to visit National Air and Space Museum (Independence Ave. SW at 6th St. SW, Washington, DC). There's a lot of cool stuff there — often with descriptions that are just as cheesily written as at any other museum — but the items are things like real moon rocks and actual airplanes.

We headed out from there and went to a few bars with Adam once he got out of work. First was The Big Hunt (1345 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC) which was having a chicken wing special. For some reason, D.C. chicken wings seem to be boiled or roasted and then covered in Red Hot … at least they weren't terrible, just unusual. I was amused at the menu because — along with all the other domestic beers — a Pabst Blue Ribbon was $4. Anyway, we stayed out late and headed back to Adam's to sleep.

We left around noon or so and decided to head back through Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania to I-88 to get to my parents' house. The idea was to avoid rush-hour in New York and instead we got to Binghamton around 5 and as such, saw no appreciable increase in traffic. Ali finally got to eat at Jumpin' Jack's Drive-In (5 Schonowee Ave., Scotia) — a locally-run fast food joint that's a de facto Capital District landmark.

Thursday we got going around noon again and headed through Vermont and New Hampshire for a scenic tour to get to see Jan and Shannon in Dover, New Hampshire — right by the little bit of coastline that separates Maine from Massachusetts. Visiting them was the highlight of the trip — it really has been too long. We headed out to a fantastic dinner at The Dunaway Restaurant (66 Marcy St., Portsmouth, NH) that night before returning to go to bed.

Friday we got up and Jan gave us a tour of downtown Dover. A charming little town … although the New Hampshire political climate of "spend nothing, ever" showed. We went to Newick's Lobster House (431 Dover Point Rd., Dover, NH) for lunch. They serve some great seafood: they're right on the bay where it comes from. The place is also huge and looked like it could seat 500 people — and it apparently does quite often.

We left early on Saturday (well, around 9:30 anyway) and headed back through Massachusetts. We stopped by my parents' place one last time before finishing up the long haul back to Rochester. In all it was about 1,500 miles of driving (for the whole trip, silly).

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Taking the train to Schenectady and back for Easter

Ali and I decided to take the train to my parents' house for Easter. We boarded at the Amtrak Station (320 Central Ave.) around 9:45 a.m. and made our way east. It was amusing to see all the familiar places and try to figure out what's next: the Public Market, the train yard, 590, Linden Avenue, East Rochester, the middle of Fairport … and then it got more sparse: Baird Road … Macedon … and the last marker was in Palmyra when we passed my friend Sondra's old house. It was a beautiful sunny day although the scenery was that dreary brown-and-gray post-winter blah.

Around 1:30 we were in Schenectady and got to spend some time with my parents.

The return train was the same run I took to Denver in 2005 — we boarded around 7:30 p.m. and … well … waited. Apparently we were waiting for the tracks to clear ahead for the late-arriving eastbound train. And then it was to allow passengers to transfer from the Saratoga Springs train. So we finally left around 8.

Then in Syracuse, the U.S. Customs agents boarded (they did on the way east as well but it was uneventful) and they had some discussion with some people who happened to be sitting near us. One guy got all his luggage and left with them, and the other — well, I think it was just a language barrier and he got to stay. In any case, the time we made up with extra speed on the way was lost again and we arrived in Rochester around 11:45 — 45 minutes late.

Now the funny thing is that on the train it's kind of unique experience to be delayed. As long as you are on the train and it's on the main tracks, it will start going again. It may take a while but it'll go.

On a plane, ship, or bus, there's a sense that you might get stuck somewhere and have to figure out what to do. But on the train it's missing that element and I find myself having faith in the inertia of the voyage. Like the sheer mass of the train itself while it's moving, it requires very unusual circumstances to cancel a run. It may be slow-going, and there may be delays, but never a cancellation.

And that makes it that much more relaxing.

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Ali's Mom Visits

Ali's mom came to visit this weekend. They got to spend a lot of time together working on decorating her house. We also hit a couple local restaurants — first-and-foremost was Don's Original (4900 Culver Rd.) as she always makes her way back there any chance she can. We also had an excellent meal at Pomodoro Grill and Wine Bar (1290 University Ave.) There's no surprise why they're still around after all these years.

I spent most of the weekend alternately trying to get things done and nursing a fever. I would have probably given them lots of time anyway (as it's been a long time since Ali's mom has been back in Rochester) but the fever just amplified the situation that much more. (And they did have a nice time, just the two of them.)

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Dinner at Flavors of Asia

Ali and I met up with a couple friends at Flavors of Asia (831 S. Clinton Ave.) for dinner. The food there is great — it's been too long since getting take-out (i.e. back when Jan was living in Rochester some 2 years ago now). Afterward we had a nice night at home playing 1980's Trivial Pursuit and Yahtzee: one of Ali's favorites.

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New Year's Eve 2007

So for New Year's Eve, Ali and I got together and had wine, pizza, and plans. We played a few games of 1980's Trivial Pursuit she got me for Christmas (both of which she won) then took a nap around 11 and didn't get up until morning in 2008. All that really matters anyway is that we had a good time with one another.

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A mostly sucky morning

Oh, you know you all love it when I go on a rant. It just flows so nicely … so buckle up 'cause here goes:

Today I met up with Ali's dad at her house. She had bought a new tub and surround but it wouldn't fit up the stairs. It's a complicated 3-D geometry problem to determine just how big something is that can fit up the stairs. There's a staircase corner above the stairs (for the stairs to the attic), and the shortest distance from the upper corner to the opposite-side line of the stairs is 60 inches — so the tallest thing that fits is 60 inches. Well, if it's flat. If it's a rectangular extrusion, then you lose some easily calculable length on the staircase-side, and some other, not-so-easily-calculable length on the upper corner. I know there's a way to know for sure, but let me finish the thought that if you are intrigued, beware of nerd sniping.

Anyway, the short version of the story is that the tub surround wouldn't fit. So we went back to the big-box hardware store that-shall-remain-nameless and looked to see if they had one that had a 4-piece surround. That way, each segment would only be 3-feet wide or so and easily fit. No such luck, except for crappy adhesive ones — which would probably fit up the stairs anyway even if they were three pieces. So we're looking at a different one and it's 6 inches shorter than the first one. So I ask Ali's dad, "do you think 6 inches would be enough?" He's not sure but it was so close last time that he figured it'll work. We pick up the tub and surround — which is both more expensive and more heavier — schlep it back to Ali's house, take it out of the box, and find that the big part of the surround won't fit up the stairs. It needs to be an inch shorter.


We go back to the store and return it then stop at the other nameless big-box hardware store. The guy there almost got choked to death by me when he asked, "are you sure it wouldn't fit?" Apparently I needed food badly. Coffee, too. And I didn't need someone giving me a nice Southern insult which, translated to Brooklynese is, "what, are you fuckin' stoopid?" — clearly a chokeable offense.

By the time we get back — empty handed — it's closing in on noon. I want to get to The Rochester Public Market (280 Union St. N.) before it's too late so I decline a surely commiseration-filled burger lunch. Then to start off, a new friend of mine isn't home who lives right by the market. Then I realize I lost my mitten somewhere — and, if you don't recall, on one of the coldest days of the year so far. So I get my apples and go to O'Bagelo's (165 State St.) It's strangely quiet and I discover the door's locked with nobody apparently inside. I don't know what's going on but I figure I'd get something at Open Face (651 South Ave., right by the corner of Hickory) instead.

Finally a reprieve. The chicken dumpling soup was excellent. The brie and pear sandwich was excellent. The toasted Havarti was excellent. The coffee was excellent. Whew.

So then I headed out to an estate sale on Baird Road. I had actually stopped there yesterday, but they said everything's half-off on the second day. I picked up some neat stuff — an old Craftsman belt-drive table saw, a CB, metal thread taps, and a Smith-Corona manual typewriter which works and is also quite attractive.

The trouble was that it was a tinkerer (like myself) who had died (not like myself yet) and the family hired Hidden Treasures to handle the sale. Well, they don't know when something just isn't worth anything, so they wouldn't take a couple bucks for the electric boat-trolling motor that wouldn't work at all, insisting that the $40 base-price necessitated a better offer. I liked the 12V cooler (old-school refrigeration, not those Peltier-based ones you get these days) but I was glad to have left it behind. Well, except that I'm sure it ended up in the garbage. I'm also sad that I didn't bite on the floor-model drill-press because its cast-iron-ness would make it too heavy to move around and I don't have the space for it right now — of course, at only $50, it would have been an absolute steal and worth every penny five times over.

Oh, and later that night — at Ali's birthday dinner at her parents' house — I did get my mitten back. It was in her dad's truck.

But then my bad luck continues from there. The snowstorm had started and I tried leaving early from Ali's dinner to see if I couldn't make it to "The Bunker" to see the show there. Unfortunately, I took my time getting out of there, and then it took longer than I thought, so by the time I got to the secret location downtown, nobody was at the door to let me in. They had said the show started at 10 p.m. and since it was in a secure warehouse building, you had to be there between 9:15 and 9:45 when they had somebody hanging out by the door to let people in. Crap.

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Ali's Birthday

As the wisest of you all know, today is a special holiday because it's my Ali's birthday. [And in case you're wondering, she turned (2006 age)+1.] So we started things off with blueberry pancakes in the morning. And then she got some cake at work. And then we went to Paola's Burrito Place (1921 South Ave., formerly Big Dog's Hots) for dinner at her preference. Then she opened her gifts but we didn't have any of the pumpkin pie I made because we were stuffed from dinner. Finishing things off we went out to Solera Wine BarMySpace link (647 South Ave.) and had some wine, meeting up with a group of friends from all different places in her life. In all, she had a great day.

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