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Did I tell you about the time I spent five weeks in New Jersey?

Did I tell you about the time I spent five weeks in Hackensack NJ?  No… Hum, perhaps I blocked it out of my memory.   No just kidding, well maybe not sorta.

Let me just say a few things about spending five weeks in NJ…. wait, let me give that a little more structure.  Let me say just a few things about spending five weeks in NJ in the middle of winter…and remembering what they use to tell us at Girl Scout Camp… “if you can’t say something nice..etc”…

1.  Snow.   Way too much of it..for my taste that is.  Thank goodness they know how to drive around in it, unlike those of us from south of the Mason Dixon line, or nothing would ever get done up there for weeks on end.

2. And speaking of driving…I now have a deeper understanding of why our seasonal  Snow-Birds drive the way that they do…Self  Preservation.  This whole thing that they do, all turns being  made from the right hand lane… well, it’s true.  I don’t know who designed their roadways, but there must be something really mind altering in the water..or the designer is a distant relative of Salvador Dali…

3.  Little family owned Italian and/or Spanish Restaurants… Oh My God.   I shall never look at Olive Garden/Carrabbas again without shaking my head at the mockery of it all, now that I have seen The Real Deal I understand the meaning of “knowledge is power” .   The fresh bread brought warm to the table, the first bite a crunch then the savory chewiness and the deep rich aroma of yeast…. then there are  the olive oils –  dark green emulsions for dipping, with freshly ground black  pepper or finely  chopped oregano leaves  or lightly browned garlic bits.  Swoon time.   And the family sized appetizer trays loaded with softly sauteed shrimp scampi, clams casino with lightly toasted bread crumbs for a touch of bite and crispy battered calamari with homemade marinara  dipping sauce – and another platter of fresh rigati pasta lightly coated with more of the marinara then dusted with fresh Parmesan.   Who needs entrees. ” We do… We do”… we all shout…Flavorful veal scaloppini  with a finesse of fresh parsley or baked and stuffed Maine Lobster, or bowls of fresh bow tie pasta with chunks of onions, fresh tomato and Italian Sausage, and again from our waiter, who dancing  in a table-side performance applies an ample amount of fresh ground Parmesan  with a twist of his wrist,  a personal  flourish.  Bravo, Bravo…  Tip him more than 20% was the cry from the table.  These people Know how to eat…..

4.  Christmas decorations….Every house had um up….. and not in a small way either.  They were gaudy, bright, lively and beautiful.  Twinkle lights, fat colorful bulbs and hanging strands of faux white icicles hung from eaves, trees and fence tops.  Big green wreaths adorned almost every door and the bigger the red  bow the better, so it seemed.    From the colorful Santa’s  with their sleighs, to the cheerful over inflated Frosty the Snowmen, there was definitely celebration in the air.  The solemn nativity scenes in practically every front  yard left no doubt either as to what the real celebration was all about.  Wrapping  it all in layers of white, made the neighborhoods true wonderlands through  which one could slowly drive all the while oohing and ahhing..

5.  An opportunity to refill one’s soul with pride in one’s country cannot be missed either.  To share that experience with my son  and the hundreds other folks willing to brave the cold winds and choppy waters was more than worth the entire trip.  Words cannot describe and I won’t attempt to here by any means.  Suffice to say  despite all the problems that we face, I would not want to be living in any other country but ours.

6.  I could go on about the friendly people I got to know, co-workers which have been added to my road family.  It is always a joy to find folks with the same sense of humor, stoic outlook on life and an ability to go with the flow of things, even when sometime the going gets a little tentative.   The whole “lets not sweat the small stuff” can turn a crap day into a copacetic one, of course having the attitude of “what goes round comes round” helps as well.

7.  So I guess the bottom line is the big question, “would you go back”.  Well there is a lot I didn’t get to see, restaurants  at which I didn’t dine, museums still unexplored,  solemn locations like the WTC site where I wished to pay my respects, .. so yes… I’ll go back… just please… Let it not be in the middle of Winter…..

PS.  I forgot to tell you about the Canolli…Good Grief… That is a whole other delicious tale. 

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Posted by on January 30, 2011 in humor, road warrior, Southern Humor, travel

 

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Pithy left the room, but now she’s.. back

What was I thinking?  Either not much or on the flip side a lot, with the qualifier that I was so busy didn’t have time to relay the information.  Hey, that later concept works for me…

As I wind down this case in the Midwest and before I begin the trek back home for a brief breather, it’s time to ramble on a bit, cause as I say, you know how “we” are….

1.  There is no Beach music in the Mid-west either.  Those that follow my tales know that I discovered the lack there of out West, and evidently somewhere perhaps either in Tennessee or Illinois I again crossed that line.  Real shame, folks out here don’t know what they are missing.

2.Playing tourist has it’s pitfalls.  Knowing what I know about tourism, I really try and research places before I shell out money to explore.  Alas sometimes the research is spot on and sometimes, well lets just say, the magic of marketing can be a double edge sword.  Case in point:

Some museums are just old dusty buildings with really nothing worthwhile worth seeing. Being brought up in a family business of running hotels, trust me, I know old ( like late 1800’s) dusty (read: borderline nasty/funky) buildings.  When I was young, a hotel just like that was my playground and the corridors, clanking elevators and murky basement rooms were fun to explore.  Perhaps that is what the museum that we visited here had in mind.  Hubby was stoic as we wandered around, trying to figure out what we were supposed to be looking at.  Other than empty rooms,a large beetle collection, an old pipe organ a,  empty bank vaults and lots of dust bunnies, it was pretty much a loss leader.  There were things for kids to climb on and crawl through, but if you can visualize what a never cleaned  100 year old McDonald’s playground ( minus the bright colors)  would look like, well you get my drift.   All I will say, is that their marketing folks made a brilliant brochure which made me conclude we had been suckered just like the rest of the glassy eyed and lighter wallet-ed folks wandering around the place with us.

3.  Zoos are cool.

a. Well, Zoos are cool if you don’t have walk forever to find the animals.

b. Zoos are cool if the animals would decide to rest/sleep up closer to the fences so you could actually make out their shapes.

c. Camouflage coloring on big cats really work. ( now where IS that cheetah ?)

d. Monkeys are always cool to watch…. as are Chimps and lemurs.

e.  Pink flamingos just stand around and look pink.

f.  Elephants look at you with expressions of  “Don’t you have anything better to do?”

g.  Trams at zoos are the best.

4.  Historic Monuments can be very impressive.  Beautifully kept grounds and a tribute to the American Way West.  The place of beginnings made one feel proud to be an American.  A sign of our times however, is the tight security in place to prevent someone from thinking they might be setting an example by blowing up a part of our history.  It didn’t slow down the visitors much and the pride of country and our perseverance not to flinch in the face of terrorism could be felt in the air.

5. Historic Farms with wildlife preserves and CLYDESDALE’S! are the best.  Not that I am prejudice or anything, however,  preserves that have trams that actually take you TO the animals are wonderful. Riding thru sloping hills, within their home territory, they watched us watch them with as much un-interest  in our presence as could be mustered.  Deer, Elk, Zebra and other exotics, but for us it was the Long Horns that stole that show.  One could only imaging them in herds back when the cattle drives crossed hundreds of miles.  Then there are the horses.  Love them, always have and always will, small ones, medium ones, large ones-they are all beautiful.  Then there are the giant size ones and well they are just tremendous.  Their towering profiles and their majestic structure belie the softness of their velvety hide and with their deep brown eyes they look into your soul and very quickly they steal your heart..or at least they did mine.

As everywhere I go, I try to feast on what I can.  We don’t get a lot of time on this earth and the more we can explore and get a taste of life in the here and now ,  the less chance there may be for us to have to admit to the regrets of  “the wish I had of”s” in our futures.

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2010 in road warrior, Southern Humor, travel

 

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Of Uncle Sam and Vineyards.

Finally, back on the road for a while, phew. Tis been a long summer me thinks and “Stir Crazy” does not aptly describe the past  many weeks, however, that was then and this is now, so we won’t beat that dead horse.  We are in moving on mode and this is a good thing.

And Now…. featuring the mid-west for a month or so.

Leaving the hot, muggy, humid coast of S.C, we drove over five states and now are enjoying the hot, not quite as muggy- somewhat less humid playground of Missouri.  Up through SC, over cloud entrenched mountains of both NC and Tenn to the bluegrass of Ky, what I want to know is when did all these winery’s crop up.  I had no clue, guess I really do need to get out more.  The winning vineyard  name on a billboard, “Purple Toad Winery”, don’t know about you but I’m gonna have to get me some of that… just because.

Our trek was along what seemed to be a pretty conservative Interstate system: several were the billboards showing Uncle Sam pointing his finger with the message, ” I want YOU to vote them out, November 2nd”.  Since these are my sentiments exactly, I was able to smile, nod and whisper “Yep” under my breath a great deal during the jaunt to our destination.  We passed thru the Land of Bib Overalls and into the farmlands of Illinois.  Corn and Soy stretching for as far as the eyes can see.  I kept thinking to myself, is this the area where they filmed the movie “Twister” as the farm houses, barns and silos all looked Hollywood picture perfect from a distance?  You could close your eyes and with an imagination snapshot, visualize the cow blowing by your car window.  (If you haven’t see the movie, never mind)

Yes, since you are curious, I have seen the Arch and the Stadium  and entrance to the Zoo, but only at 65 mph, so details hopefully will follow soon. Now however, since work between play is involved, I guess I best get to doing some of that.

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2010 in road warrior, Southern Humor, travel

 

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…if it’s January this must be Tennessee

…When Dorothy said “I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore Toto”  boy was she ever right on that one…

Well, we aren’t in South Carolina either and like they use to say, ” it’s snowing here like a son of a b$#ch.  Well, maybe they didn’t really say that, but it is snowing and yep, you guessed it,  I’m on the road again.  Just when I thought I had gotten maybe halfway into winter acceptance mode of being less than nomadic for a bit longer, we get a call and in two days were packed and hitting the trail for a couple of weeks.

Now the weathermen on Television, Cable and Radio assured us that the bad weather heading our way would not hit the area to which we were driving till early evening, so at the crack of dawn we were up and motoring down the hi and bye ways, hot footing it to insure arrival at our final destination prior to the predicated advancing “weather event” as they now call these storms.   (sidebar:  Who are “they” and do they actually pay them to think up these  monikers?).    Twenty-five  miles from our hotel, the sleeting started and the temperature plummets 25 degrees and even the Truckers started backing it down.  Crawling up and down mountain Interstates, surrounded by huge diesel  engines straining in 2nd gear had my teeth on edge.  With my happy look ( frozen on my face)  and white knuckles hidden on the door handle ,  you never would even imagine  that I was concerned about the ice perhaps forming across the many bridges and overpasses we were encountering.

One of the many great things about traveling together is that “he” gets to drive the long haul freeway portions.  I  don’t normally “do” Interstate Highways as I tend to lolly-gag , trying to watch the scenery and all.  This makes him nuts, so with him at the wheel we kept tracking north,  at least making progress towards our hotel and not sitting by the side of the road waiting for it to “blow over”, which is where we would probably still be if I had been driving.

Well we slid into town only about and hour  behind schedule and got one of the last two rooms at the hotel.  Evidently there were other white knuckled drivers out there that instead of heading to their supposed destinations, opted to tuck it in for the day, early…very early.

So here we are, in the mountains of Tennessee.  Once again, somewhere I haven’t been, which as I say is not surprising as I haven’t been more places than I have.   So from my window I can see the outside elevators on the Marriott and the temperature sign on the Convention Center next door says 31 degrees and out on the Interstate, well, it’s pretty much a parking lot.  A well lit parking lot, which if you watch for a few moments sorta reminds you of an old fashioned slide show.  Images creep in slow motion and cars and trucks seem to just change places under a fog of white.

Hopefully everyone will end up at  destination that they wanted to find sooner rather than later.  The city will hunker down while the “winter event” blows through tonight.  We’ll eat dinner in ( I pack for the journey, remember the whole “girlscoutbeprepard” thing) and will enjoy sleeping in a little later in the morning.  Planned training tomorrow may start out slow as stragglers who couldn’t make it up the mountain come wandering in from the cold.

It’s all good.  I’m out and about and itching to explore on my time off.

Now where did I pack my long johns?

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2010 in humor, road warrior, travel

 

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..almost homeward bound

…winding down from a six-week jaunt on the road.  It this an ending or just the intro to more beginnings?  We’ll be flying home in a little over 48 hours.  Home.  Home represents so many different things to people.  

I’m just looking forward to the big collapse.  You know that feeling.  You drive into the driveway, look at one another, say hell with the luggage and you just go in the house and collapse on the sofa.  Phew.  We’re finally home. 

Wait..Stop Motion..  rewind just a trifle, well actually more than a trifle, maybe a tad or a smidge. 

First open the front door, call Kitty Kitty.  Wait while they ignore you.  Enter house.  Notice the faint piquant aroma of the litter boxes.  Yes they were changed, but still.  Quickly open some windows.  Call Kitty Kitty once again.  Pick up litter boxes and take them outside.  Look at pile of mail on fire-place and ignore it.  Look at flashing answering machine and ignore that too.  Walk down hall way. Spy cats staring at you like you are aliens from another planet.  Watch cats run under bed.  Shrug shoulders. 

Take quick potty break.  Piquant odor is also down the hall.  Open more windows.  Call kitty kitty.  Watch cats casually approach with nary a hint of apprehension. Yeah right.  Pick up one cat.  Notice piquant aroma on cat.  Put down cat.  Open glass door and put cats out.  Leave glass door open for further aroma removal. 

Walk down to kitchen.  Open refrigerator.  Nothing bought in 6 weeks.  Stare at emptiness.  Feel sad. And hungry.  Flip coin for who goes to grocery store.  He looses. 

Walk back to office.  Turn on computers.  Cuss cause you forget how to plug-in internet connection.  Figure it out.  Check E-mails.  Same old spam.  No “welcome homes”.  People still think you are on wild adventure.  Yeah right. 

Walk back to kitchen.  Open refrigerator.  Nothing has magically appeared.  Casually say, “when are you going to store”?  Kiss him good-by and say hurry home.  And mean it.  Stomach is growling. 

Walk to backyard.  Stare at cold swimming  pool.  Look at all the leaves in pool.  Sigh heavily.  Stare back at cats.  Feel cat rubbing leg.  All is forgiven.  Animals and humans go back into house.  Feed cats.  Watch them eat as if they have been starved for six weeks.  Not.  

Welcome back grocery man. Look at grocery bags.  Put away eggs.  Stare at hamburger meat.  Put  hamburger meat in refrigerator.  Drink glass of milk.  Have piece of toast.  Too tired to cook. 

Go sit on sofa.  Have cats jump in lap.  Catch faint aroma but too tired to care.  Pat cats.  Back to normal. 

Collapse.  All is well.

I can hardly wait.

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2009 in humor, road warrior, travel

 

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…Stetsons and tennis shoes

..and cowboy boots with baseball caps… A  fusion of cultures.  I get to enjoy it all.  Fly all this way to experience the new and exciting and what do I find my self doing?  Going to Wally World  to buy a pair of  jeans.  Of course.  The store that stocks the staple of America.  Anywhere and everywhere.  As they say, even the folks that hate Wally World, go to Wally World and yep, there I was.  Restocking my closet with yet another pair of jeans.  Naturally with this much stopping and starting and shifting and moving about, I had left my trusty pair of traveling pants at one hotel or another.   Aren’t I supposed to be the one that keeps track of everyone and everything?   Heavy sigh…Fly cross country to go to the Wall…how sad…

Sometimes life is just not all that exciting.  The mundane can drive you batty and sometimes  can just send you over the edge a bit.  I have seen the same “free breakfast buffet” items for the past 6 weeks.  I mean, get a grip hotel chain.  There are some of us out here that use your hotels more than once in a blue moon..and your damn cinnamon buns just aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.   Change it up a bit, PLEASE.  I mean we switched hotel chains  one night and it was a pleasure not to see bacon sliced so thin that it took three slices to make one whole piece,   or cheese omelets (and I use that term, way loosely) that look like a soggy taco with a cholesterol addiction.   We almost killed each other in the rush  to get to a crock pot filled with hot gooey oatmeal,  because it was something different…

And don’t get me started on the fancy shower heads.  They look like they will provide a cascade of wonderful sparkling droplets surely meant to pulsate on tired and sore muscles to ease the stress of travel.  Well, they would, but the hotel owners make them  put  those water restricters  in the pipes to save on money, so the trickle of H2O  is definitely not conducive for a “shower massage” and even more so it makes de-soaping a huge challenge.  I just want to get the shampoo outta my hair in less than an hour folks.  Give me a break, I have to get to work. 

 Now I do like some of the beds, although there is no place like home, right?  The towels they give you now-a-days are a sight better than they used to be and there are usually more of them.  The walls are thicker so I don’t hear my neighbors in the throes of passion or having a party at midnight.  This is a good thing, since I tend to want to crash after a long day at about oh, 8:30.  What a wimp….

Then there are the smells of traveling.  Yes, we have our fair share of Southern odors as well.  Our pluff mud, our paper mills, our hog farms…Oh joy, oh bliss.  Out here you get to enjoy the effervescence  of the aroma of sugar beets and potatoes being washed and processed.  A peculiar aroma reminiscent of old socks and sour milk all rolled into one.  If you happen to be near a potato chip factory, you can catch the lilt of burnt oil combined with the old socks and sour milk.  And it stays with you.  In your car, in your hair and on your clothes.  It’s special, and no, I haven’t gotten used to it.  I still have to run, dragging my computer bag,  from my car to the plant.  holding my hand cupped  over my nose like some panickey Japanese unable to find his surgical face mask in the midst of germ attack.

I guess we have to take the bad with the good.  We do so at  home and most often don’t really even notice.  We just go on with our lives and just brush aside the majority of things that annoy or irritate us.  Maybe we have subconsciously determined that gripeing about the mundane on the home front just isn’t worth the waste of time.  No one listens anyway so why bother.  Out here at least,however,  I get to gripe.  Even if it is just a little bit.  I had your attention didn’t I?  Perhaps just for a moment,  you listened, and hopefully you smiled.   See for my part, that made it all better.  So now I can smile again too.

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2009 in humor, road warrior, travel

 

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..Notes, thru nowhere..

So now we get to drive for a couple of hours and we are tracking Northwest up thru the valley and around the northern tip of the Salt Lake…and it changes.  The golden and red leaved trees start to disappear and now in addition to the spacious sky’s and purple mountains I have been dazzled by, I am  rolling thru amber waves of grain.  At least I think it could be grain?   Plains  and hills and valleys the color of our summer sand.  Miles upon miles.  Nope we don’t have anything like this either back in South Carolina.  The hills, and I use that term loosely here, remind me of the  sloping Blue Ridge, only they’re naked.  Not a tree in sight, only the bare sandy grasses bowing with the breeze.  It’s amazing.  Now I could go on waxing about the wonders, but you would tire rapidly and move on to other things.  So I will stop and just point out a few things I noticed in addition to the beauty of the day.

When I drive ,I love my satellite radio.  Bunches of stations and I listen to about 2, but that is beside the point.  Out here, sans satellite  radio, well, I’m almost wishing for static.  You have multiple channels but I could only find  Heavy Metal and Country. Not really my cup of tea.   I tried to scan for some smooth jazz or something with a little New Orleans pick me up, but nothing.  Aerosmith or Randy Travis.   I mean, what a mix.    Rhythm and Blues or better yet, Beach Music,  yea right, in my dreams.  Note:  Must pick up some CD’s.

We stop for a quick-lunch where the interstate roads split, as looking at the map, it seemed pretty “out there” till the next convergence of civilization.  I  kept looking for the “Last Gas” signs but they must figure everyone out here knows the deal.  There aren’t many of us Southerners roaming them thar hills I reckon. 

We roll for a good while, steadily climbing and the landscape is starting to morph again.  Now there are more scrub trees and rocks.  Wait I see a sign up ahead.  Actually they come fast and close together.  The first one says “Dust Storms Possible- Don’t stop on roadway.”  WHAAT?  This isn’t the Sahara?  Did I take a wrong turn somewhere? This does not bode well, me thinks.   Not a mile down the road comes the second one,  “GAME MIGRATION AREA-NEXT TEN MILES”.   Good God, Have I swung down to the Serengeti?  Are their herds of Gnu’s and Zebra heading over the next hill towards me?  What is this place?  

Next sign looming up,  “DEER HERD CROSSING AHEAD” .  Now I don’t know about where you are from, but in my neck of South Carolina we have these little signs of a deer leaping upward, and you have to keep an eye out for them and their little (read 1 to 4 deerlettes) families mostly at dawn and dusk as they frolic across the roads.  But good grief,  whole Herds of them, with their own special crossing areas.  I mean come on, whose leg are you pulling.  You must think I’m from the South or something.  This  sorta reminded me with I was heading up to Maine with my sisters and mother on an adventure a number of years ago, trust me 4 women in a rental car is always an adventure.  Anyway, we were driving to Maine coming thru New Hampshire  from in the White Mountains late in the day and we stopped for a break.  The New Hampshirian, noticing our rental car, says  ” you know the Moose don’t come out of the forest till ’bout 5pm and you just missed ‘um,  so if you want to see them you can ride back up the mountain.”  Right, we were gonna do that…Note:  this was before my Buffalo searching days.   Theres a sucker born every second right?

So out here they have Dust Storms, Migrating Game and Herds of Deer all within a 10 or so mile stretch of highway.  Oh, I forgot the “Put your Chains on here” signs.  Nope ,we aren’t in South Carolina any more my little chickadee…. 

Wait another sign up coming up fast.  Big Arrows Pointing into the distance,   City of  Rocks, Idaho.   Wait, we have one of those , Rock City, Tennessee.   Hum, could it be?  Tourist traps ahead?    Maybe Southerners and Westerners aren’t so different after all.

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2009 in travel

 

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