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New and traditional ways of exploring the globe, and your own backyard.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A review of two New Paltz area wineries and a restaurant...or...16 Wines in Five Hours

Another weekend, another bachelorette party for this girl. I’ve been told I’m “at that age” where everyone gets married. And I’m starting to wonder how much longer this particular age will last – there were six wedding invites this season. But, as one of my favorite Facebook groups says, “Everyone is getting married, and I’m getting drunk.”
And so we did this weekend at two fine wineries in the New Paltz area.
My group, of more than a dozen girls and the token awesome gay friend, were picked up in a white stretch escalade limo at the Hampton Inn around noon. And that’s when we all started drinking.
Starting in the limo, there was chocolate wine, moscatto, Yellow Tail white, white zin. And then we arrived at the new Robibero Winery. One of the proprietors of the winery, which just opened in February, served our entire group. She explained how their grapes were actually harvested in Hudson. They had the cutest little puppy prancing around the quaint building.
There were about seven wines (that I remember) with three red, three white, and a dessert. And I enjoyed most of them- which is rare for me since I’m kind of picky. They provided crackers and nuts to cleanse the palate.
There were very comfortable leather couches, which my roommate took a nap on, and there was also a beautiful deck which overlooked some of their grape vines.
The total came to a very reasonable $6.
We then went to the popular Whitecliff Winery which has a beautiful view of a white escarpment. We passed dozens of rows of grapes and could sit right near them in Adirondack chairs as we sampled the wine from our friendly helper Jonathan.
I kind of lost track of how many wines we tried, but I – along with some of my friends – were not very impressed. It could have been that we had heard a lot about the winery and it did not quite live up to expectations. It was still a nice experience and the view was probably worth the $11 charge, for wine and the sample glass.
I was a bit hung over by 5:30 p.m. and dinner was at 6 p.m. at Torches on the Hudson in Newburgh. This was an elegant restaurant and we were sat right near the huge aquarium with many colorful fishes that we ended up naming – things like Sonny and Cher – by the end of dinner.
The prices here were reasonable, the selection was diverse (with anything from lobster to pulled pork sandwiches) and the ambiance was romantic. And I loved the view of the Hudson River.
There was even a wedding party going on not far from our table. I guess it’s “that age” for at least a couple other people too.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Down to “Kokomo”

With summer apparently coming to an end (I'm told I can't wear white any more after Labor Day but often disregard this rule), I'm taking a vacation from writing on the blog today and have a guest blogger: Ed Tremblay - the community development director in Cohoes - who has a great story about his own recent vacation to Aruba.

Thanks, Ed.


You know it is time for a vacation when your big venture for the month is a trip over the 112th Street Bridge into Troy. Yes, my job is to promote and boost the economic development in Cohoes so I spend a majority of my time here but sometimes you just have to get away. So when it came time for my wife and me to get away for a week we decided that it was time to venture back to a small Caribbean Island called Aruba. It is one of the southernmost islands and not in the hurricane belt so you don’t have to worry about getting washed away. And it is only 17 degrees north of the Equator so you know it will be warm, but I really think my wife’s choice was because Sprint does not have cell phone service and she knew my Blackberry would not work.

It was an uneventful smooth flight and we arrived on the Island, of course our baggage did not. So after a trip to the souvenir shop and the purchase of two overpriced bathing suits we hit the beach. Our timeshare was part of the Divi Resort so we had all of the amenities that are also available to those that had their all inclusive package. So we had our choice of restaurants, water side pubs and unlimited water side bars. Of course it was a bit of an issue when I had to pay for these services and all of the others just had to smile at the bartender to get their drinks. However, when you have to pay for your drinks you do pace yourself and make sure you do not overindulge.

For those of you not familiar with timeshares it works like this: We have a one bedroom timeshare in Cape Cod for the fall. If we do not have an opportunity to use it, we bank that week with one of the time share companies. We then exchange it for another week somewhere in their system. So we did not get to use our week last year at the Cape so we exchanged it for a week in Aruba this year. Someone else that wanted to visit the Cape last fall stayed in our unit. Pros and cons to the system but you make sure you get away at least once a year.

The weather in Aruba is gorgeous, sunny 92 degrees with an ocean breeze of 15 to 20 miles per hour. So we would go out early each morning, find a suitable palm tree cabana on the beach, and relax and read the day away. When you get warm you meander down the beach to the aqua blue 80 degree ocean and float out on the gentle waves. By the time you walk back to your cabana you are almost dry. A short walk to one of those nearby Tiki Bars and you can enjoy one of those frozen Island drinks with a straw and a fancy umbrella.

Later in the afternoon you go back to your room, shower, and put on your colorful flowered shirts and a white pair of shorts and you are ready to explore the Island culinary fares. From steak to lamb to a local fish called a “Wahoo” you can find anything that you like and you can spend a lot or spend a little. We chose the first, but had some fabulous meals, so the price did not really matter. The last night we ate at the “Flying Fishbone.” My wife and I sat with out feet in the ocean and watched the sun set in the Eastern Sky.

Well it is back to Cohoes and back to reality, but if you ever want an opportunity to do nothing but sit and relax Aruba is one of the best places to do it.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tanglewood's Film Night with John Williams

What do the Star Wars’ “Imperial March,” the Jaws theme, the Schindler’s List score and “Olympic Fanfare and Theme” all have in common? One man: John Williams.

I, like many others, grew up watching the amazing movies he worked his music magic on. Magic that has resulted in five Academy Awards, four Golden Globes, and 21 Grammies.

Luckily, the Flushing, NY native is a Boston Pops conductor laureate and conducts a few performances at Tanglewood in Massachusetts each summer season, so we can hear and see what he can do with an orchestra up close and personal.

The first time I experienced this was a few years ago when the Tanglewood Film Night’s theme was Indiana Jones. As parts of the film played on an overhead screen, Williams conducted the Boston Pops through the adventurous, romantic score for the archaeologist turned hero character.

Without actually seeing the full orchestra in front of me, I would never have known they were there. It sounded exactly like what’s in the trilogy – I keep telling myself the last Indiana Jones movie didn’t really happen and Spielberg was just kidding when he released it.

Still, that movie was included in the program and, I’ll admit, the movie is a lot better when you close your eyes and just listen to the music.

This year, Film Night was this past weekend and it had a similar theme – a lineup of all Steven Spielberg movies and scores: Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., and there was an encore of the Indiana Jones music.

For $21 for lawn, it was completely worth the 1.5 hour drive. It’s a very popular event, however, so if you go next year I would recommend getting early and expect to wait in traffic going in and getting out.

The rules there are a little more lenient than SPAC so they allow beer, wine, camping chairs, and even candles and cheese platters.

While, according to the Tanglewood website , it does not seem like Williams will be there again this season, there are other fun concerts and events to attend:

Aug 21 - Mendelssohn and Beethoven – 8:30 pm, $19- $99

Aug 22 – Higdon, Bach, Suppe, Sarasate, Bizet – 2:30 p.m. $18- $89

Aug 29 – Bach and Beethoven – 2:30 p.m. $19- $99

Sept 1 – Crosby, Stills, and Nash – 7:30 p.m. $24- $96)

Sept 5 – jazz festival – all day lawn $34

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A break from our regularly-scheduled road trip programming...

I had the honor of being a part of my friend Chinasa’s wedding party and therefore partially in charge of arranging for her bachelorette party. Chinasa is not the stereotypical soon-to-be bride who would want strippers, and unhealthy amounts of alcohol sipped through penis straws (or at least that would be what I would want for my bachelorette party - *achem* friends take note).
So, we started brainstorming about other activities – a trip to Foxwoods casino came up, a stay at the new Great Escape Lodge was a possibility – but we finally agreed upon going to the Sterling Renaissance Festival near Oswego, NY.
I was first introduced to this fun summer weekend activity by an ex-boyfriend who goes to the Renaissance faire annually with his family. But, I had a feeling that my friend would love the experience.
First off, you get to dress up and really get absorbed into that time period. Chinasa wore an old sorceress Halloween costume that the maid of honor happened to bring along in my car trunk (since the festival was a surprise) and I wore a friend’s medieval-style dress, complete with extra long sleeves.
Others in costume greeted us with “Good Morrows” and “Good Day, M’lady.” It seems like a great place for aspiring actors to pick a role and accent for the day and use it with the other visitors.
While waiting in the rather long line to get in, a man atop the nearby stone castle was entertaining the crowd with an improv comedy act which included a rope noose. Though he was not quite loud enough for me to hear him, he was at least funny looking….*cue lame joke drum.*
Once through the gateway, we waited in another smaller line to get a wristband to show we were of the proper Medieval age to drink.
After this, being lunchtime, our next priority was food. While Chinasa and I shared a ($8) Turkey leg, others had items like fish sandwiches and even a quiche and quesadilla. I didn’t know they had quesadillas back then…
As for the drinks, there was mead (honey wine), beer, and wine. More specifically, wine and wine slushies. Yum.
Turkey legs in hand, we went to see the jousting and sword fighting. This was where we saw a Capt. Jack Swallow look-a-like, which was really cool! And the joust and fighting was pretty fun too – though, again, the sound-system was not the best but I can’t really complain since they did not even have sound systems back then.
We saw the Don Juan and Miguel act which has been at the festival for more than 20 years, and for good reason. The duo are hilarious, and their sword-fighting and tricks are stunning. Even when they mess up the trick, they still found a way to make it funny.
We went to the other side of the huge village – all this supposedly takes place in 1585 in an English village named Warwick – and went to see a glass-blowing demonstration. I wish I could have afforded to pay the $125 for the champagne flutes he made for the crowd but that was unfortunately a little steep for me.
The day was topped off at the Mud Pit Stage, and you can surely guess what the main attraction there is….mud. And lots of it.
If you missed the tomato-throwing, heckling, medieval magic of the 2010 Season (the festival’s 34th), you can still enjoy the large property at the Sterling Celtic Rock Festival this weekend Sat. Aug. 21 and Sun. Aug. 22. The music schedule is below and tickets range from $14.95 to $25.
Or, for Halloween fans, what better place to get the crap scared out of you than a huge Renaissance campus in the middle of nowhere? On Fridays and Saturdays throughout October, Screamers’ Hollow is open to the public and tickets for this range from $12.50 to $30.
Parking at the venue is free and it is about 3 hours or so away from Albany.
I have yet to go to the music festival or the immense haunted house-like experience, so please let me know if any of you have. I’d love to hear some reviews on it.

The Sterling Renaissance Festival’s website:


Wyldwood Stage1:15p – 2:00p: Searson2:45p – 3:30p: Eileen Ivers4:00p – 5:15p: Searson5:45p – 7:00p: Eileen Ivers

Mud Pit Stage12:30p – 1:15p: The Town Pants2:00p – 2:45p: The Elders3:30p – 4:45p: The Town Pants5:15p – 6:30p: The Elders

Bankside Stage12:45p – 2:00p: Hadrian’s Wall2:45p – 3:30p: Causeway Giants4:00p – 5:15p: Hadrian’s Wall5:45p – 7:00p: Causeway Giants

Gate Stage11:00a – 12:15p: Syracuse Irish Session12:30p – 1:45p: The Grady Girls2:00p – 3:15p: Syracuse Irish Session3:30p – 4:45p: The Grady Girls

Festival Stage11:00a – 12:15p: Traonach12:30p – 1:00p: Harrington School of Irish Dance1:15p – 1:45p: Scottish Pipe and Dance2:00p – 3:15p: Traonach3:30p – 4:00p: Harrington School of Irish Dance4:15p – 4:45p: Scottish Pipe and Dance5:00p – 5:30p: Harrington School of Irish Dance

SUNDAY, AUGUST 22 Wyldwood Stage1:15p – 2:00p: Searson2:45p – 3:30p: Eileen Ivers4:00p – 5:15p: Searson5:45p – 7:00p: Eileen Ivers

Mud Pit Stage12:30p – 1:15p: The Town Pants2:00p – 2:45p: The Elders3:30p – 4:45p: The Town Pants5:15p – 6:30p: The Elders

Bankside Stage12:45p – 2:00p: Hadrian’s Wall2:45p – 3:30p: Tartan Terrors4:00p – 5:15p: Hadrian’s Wall5:45p – 7:00p: Tartan Terrors

Gate Stage11:00a – 12:15p: Syracuse Irish Session12:30p – 1:45p: The Grady Girls2:00p – 3:15p: Syracuse Irish Session3:30p – 4:45p: The Grady Girls

Festival Dance Stage11:00a – 12:15p: Traonach12:30p – 1:00p: Kinlough Academy1:15p – 1:45p: Scottish Pipe and Dance2:00p – 3:15p: Traonach3:30p – 4:00p: Kinlough Academy4:15p – 4:45p: Scottish Pipe and Dance5:00p – 5:30p: Kinlough Academy5:45p – 6:15p: Scottish Pipe and Dance

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"My land is where my people are buried" ~Crazy Horse

July 4 (cont.)

Just 30 minutes from Mount Rushmore is the Crazy Horse monument. The entire four president sculpture can fit into just the head of Crazy Horse in this mammoth – but unfinished – artwork.
Admission is $10 per person, a little steep for someone on a road trip budget but it was well worth the money. In fact, it’s mainly these admission fees and donations at the museum that funds the continued work on Crazy Horse since no government funds have been or will be used at the site, as according to the wishes of Korczak Ziolkowski who started the project in 1948.
Crazy Horse was a Lakota American Indian who played a large role in the Battle of Little Big Horn. He never signed a treaty with the white man and government. He was eventually stabbed in the back at a surrender.
He is known for saying: My land is where my people are buried.
The Lakota wanted a monument like Rushmore to show their heroes and honor all Indians, so they hired Ziolkowski.
He started by himself, well, him and a few mountain goats to keep him company, but then he had a family who now continues to finish the monument.
The face is finished now and there is an outline for Crazy Horse’s arm and his horse.
When finished, it will be seen from the front and the back, and will have a quote next to it.
The memorial has regular night laser shows, an interesting movie, and tours to near the mountainous sculpture, also in the Black Hills.
There is sporadic dynamite blasting and sculpting, but I predict this won’t be finished until at least 2040.

Quote of the day: “I’m picking nuts. That’s wack. Are you nuts?” ~ a strange radio commercial with cartoon squirrels

Monday, August 9, 2010

Mount Rushmore was a little disappointing...

July 4 (cont.)

So, what’s a more patriotic location to be on Independence Day than Mount Rushmore? Really, I consider myself very lucky to be here in front of the countenances of such great leaders as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.
However…it actually was not as impressive as I thought it would be.
I don’t know. Maybe size does matter, especially when I’m looking up at a big granite monument that I’ve seen in movies and found in photographs for years.
Maybe I just saw it so much that my expectations outmatched what the national monument could offer.
Washington’s stone nose may be bigger than a person, but it just was not as….grand, as I hoped.
I almost feel like I need to apologize for saying that. Like I am making the most unpatriotic of remarks about a place that took years and millions of dollars to complete.
But, that Is my opinion.
Is it worth the $10 parking fee? Um...yes. But, honestly, you get just about as good a view as you are driving up the adjacent mountains. To save some road trip cash, you could always just pull over and get your photo there.
Unless you are a history buff and want to pay tribute to these extraordinary leaders.
Admission also included a tour on the Presidential Trail near the base of the monument. Our guide explained how the four presidents were chosen for their contributions to the country – Washington’s leadership, Jefferson’s foresight with the Louisiana Purchase, Lincoln’s tough decisions during the Civil War, and Roosevelt’s world contribution of the Panama Canal.
It cost about $5 million in the 20s and 30s to build and now it would cost about $17 million.
There is normally an impressive fireworks display at Mount Rushmore for July 4th but there were some environmental issues, namely with beetles this year, so the woods were too dry and the forest fire possibility was too high. I found out later that it is illegal for fireworks displays throughout the state unless a hard-to-obtain permit is acquired.
As we walked out through the stone pillars lined with state flags, I couldn’t help but look back one last time at the sculpture engrained in the Black Hills. It may not be as impressive as I thought…but it’s still pretty cool.
And it was also a great place to continue my photo collection of license plates.

Friday, August 6, 2010

This South Dakota store put up more than 200 signs along I-90...

July 4 (cont.)

Ok, I lied (unintentionally)....

The actual next stop was to Wall Drug in Wall, S.D - a place I had never even heard of before I crossed the South Dakota border and started seeing sign and after sign advertising for the pharmacy/tourist trap.

"Wall Drug: Free Ice Water"

"Wall Drug: Famous Donuts"

"Wall Drug: 5-cent coffee"

The interstate literally had these signs lined up, one after another. The Free Ice Water one was my favorites, since I'm pretty sure you can get free ice water nearly anywhere. But it was a tempting possible stop, especially on these hot summer days.

Despite having a basic itinerary, I had decided to not plan everything completely out and to leave some room for the random roadside stops - like the Pioneer Auto Exhibit, the Jolly Green Giant, and, apparently, like Wall Drug too.

Coincidentally, or not, the store is in a city at the western exit/entrance of the Badlands. So, we had to drive right by it anyway.

The advertising worked and we stopped. I got the ice water and a chocolate donut.

The 76,000 square foot store was so large, with a cafe, restaurant, pharmacy, and souvenir shop, it had numbered exits - totaling around 4 or 5, I think.

On a road of all western, wooden buildings, it was very much so a tourist stop. Considering it's been open since the 1930s, I'm surprised I'd never heard of it before, but now - 200 or so signs later - the name Wall Drug has been engrained into my memory.

The next stop, however, was one of the main reasons I wanted to do this trip to begin with....

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A gruesome find in the Badlands...

The Badlands...

July 4 (cont.)

As we traveled further west, I started to see odd colored cliffs from the highway. We were about to enter the Badlands.
I recently saw these in the movie Dances with Wolves. And while that movie was pretty good, sad but good, it did not give the Badlands justice.
The Badlands National Park is like a beautiful Grand Canyon, but one where the bottom is not a mile away, and the different shapes of stone are able to be touched.
It was overcast but I felt that added to the ambiance. The formations were red, orange, yellow, green, purple. The land itself was dry and cracked, and looked like sand and sand castles. The rock was incredibly crumbly. I tried to hike up a small trail and found it very difficult.
We did a marked trail and the view of the area was vast and never-ending. Little kids ran by me up the steep, stair-like terrain. Their parents tried to get them to slow down and look at the plant life. I saw a cactus which was pretty cool.
On the way down, I debated taking the same path but opted to do the loop and came across the bones of a dead animal. It was a gruesome find…but still interesting and reminded me that I definitely was not alone on that path. It looked like the bones were once part of a coyote, but I’m not sure.
We did the main road loop which begins and ends at I-90 – stopping along the way for the museum, visitor center, and views. The colors kept changing, and I wished we could stay for the sunset which I had heard was beautiful.
There is a campground and Inn on the site. While we did not stay there, I would highly recommend them just for the location and I think the campground was only about $20.
Next was a stop I had been looking forward to since planning the trip….

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Is it bad that I didn't know what the General Lee was?

Jess with the Corn Palace
Honking the horn of the General Lee

July 4

I actually completely forgot today was Independence Day. I only realized it at breakfast when all of the people were wearing flags and red, white and blue - and I thought it was a little weird, until I realized the date.

I woke up this morning to Jess trying to cuddle with me, jokingly. Though, it did seem like our bed was smaller there.

We ran into Jason at breakfast. He was nice and asked how the rest of our night was and asked where we were going next. He's going to Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands today too, so maybe we'll randomly see him again.

Left the motel at 8:15 a.m.-ish and went to the 'famous' Corn Palace that we kept seeing signs for. The outside had 2011 written on two towers and murals of types of transportation. It reminded me of the architecture found in the Red Square or at the Taj Mahal, not that I have been to either of those...yet.

The city of Mitchell, S.D. (pop. 14,000) has commercial strips that vary from Vegas-esque to western-ish. But the town seemed almost deserted, save for a few cars and tourists.

The sky here is so immense. I don't think I have ever seen such a big sky and clouds. You can see the beginning and end of storms, which is really cool.

It rained last night actually after we got out of the hot tub. Today it's cloudy but getting better as we go west.

The fields are flat and pretty and smell like cow poop.

I saw a sign for $6.95 filet mignon. It's "cow country" as Jess put it. And God's country - both with the prevelance of religious and country music on the radio, but also in beauty.

I like the green fields and yellow prairies.

And random signs and attractions - Laura Ingalls Wilder's house, Wall Drug, and we apparently missed a really big skillet somewhere.

We tried to have Adam drive but he made us nervous with backing up. He dinged the car next to us (which can happen to anyone) but then almost hit it while reversing. Jess took over. He should do better on the open road.

Stopped at a place called the Pioneer Auto Exhibition in Murdo, S.D. Jess was intrigued by the General Lee signs, though I had no clue who/what that was. But we decided to stop there.

The admission was $9.50 but the man told us there was also a $1 off coupon. We were still hesitant, so he lowered the price to $4.50.

The western-ish man, white beard with an accent, was nice and then had another man beep the General Lee's horn, which I discovered is the name of the car from Dukes of Hazzard.

Stopping there turned out to be a cool idea. It had items from at least the turn of the 20th, motorcycles, buttons, Coke bottles, posters, and even whole buildings and lunch boxes that I would have grown up with like from The Dark Crystal and Gremlins.

The car collection, with more than 200 collected over the course of 50 years, was especially impressive, and they had a motorcycle owned by Elvis.

We stopped there for about an hour and enjoyed the 50s style restaurant and adjacent gift shop. Then, we made our way onwards on I-90.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Four States in One Day....

(above: 50-foot Jolly Green Giant, below: Mississippi River)

July 3

After a leisurely morning talking with Jess' family, we made our way to Al Capone's gravesite. It has a large stone cross and his other family members are buried nearby. Someone, it seemed, had recently dropped off flowers at his grave.

It was another beautiful, blue-skied day and we were making our way to Mitchell, South Dakota.

Illinois' northern area is very flat with a lot of farms.

We got to Wisconsin and went to a Cheese Chalet where I bought rasberry beer, cheese, and a sandwich. And, of course, a postcard.

Wisconsin started slow but I grew to like it, it only took a few hundred miles.

We got to a prairie area with wild flowers that smelled so sweet. Then, for the first time in days, I saw mountains and I was reminded of home. I also saw a couple cool rocky areas jutting from the forests with eroded grey boulders. They were like towers in the woods.

Then we saw the Mississippi River, and we made it to our 7th state - Minnesota. The river didn't look too much different than the Hudson River, just maybe a bit wider, but it looked just as polluted. Still, a cool site to see.

Adam finally got the courage to drive on the highway and he drove for about an hour and a half, til the Spam Museum in Austin, Minn.

We got there and unfortunately it had just closed. But it looked like a lot of fun, and it was free! The word SPAM was printed in each of the parking spots and there was a sculpture of a pig in front of the gift shop, which was also closed. We saw some people taking photos in front of the sculpture so we decided not to.

Jess took over driving and we drove to the 50 foot Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, Minn. where we also had some Dairy Queen ice cream and then stopped to see the equivalent of the golden spike of the railroads only for the thruway where the I-90 thruway was completed, connecting the two coasts.

We're back to plains and saw some huge windmills. It is very windy here.

Also noticing that people miles away from each other can see their neighbors, so it seems they have planted treets nearby to offer some privacy.

I keep seeing signs for Wall Drug - which I have never heard of but apparently it has been featured in Time magazine and on the Early Show, according to these endless signs. There are also signs for a place called the Corn Palace. These ads, while annoying, also make me curious about these places.

I'm enjoying the lack of tolls. We have not paid one since the Illinois border. We also ran into some traffic around there too which was likely July 4 weekend related.

It's a holiday weekend and we have no reservations. I was worried but I had a good feeling we'll be OK for lodging.

Luckily, I was right. We made it to the Thunderbird Motel in Mitchell, S.D. They said they had 10 rooms left and the rate was around $83.

Jess noticed that the hot tub room was open til midnight, so we put on our bathing suits and went down. I also noticed two guys go in there before us.

We soon befriended them, Justin and Josh. They are from the Chicago-area but are putting in oil pipelines out here.

They are very friendly.

Another guy named Jason joined. He is from North Carolina and is on a three week road trip with his mom and grandma. He said the Smoky Mountains are the most beautiful mountains he has ever seen, so I am hoping to go there. If not on this trip, then soon.

It turned out we actually saw Jason and his family at the Spam Museum, they were the ones posing in front of the pig sculpture. I thought that was a funny coincidence.

Quote of the day: "You haven't hit the boring part of the country yet."~Josh on the rest of our flatlands drive