Blogs > Millennial Traveler

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

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Weird Locations I Learned About Today

During my end-of-the-day procrastinating at work (as opposed to my morning, midday, and afternoon procrastinating), I came across this Huffington Post article which named a single weird thing about each of the 50 states.

From that, I learned about a few interesting travel locations and thought I'd share these segments/photos from that piece. I'd also recommend reading the rest of it. It's pretty interesting:

You can visit a partial replica to the Pyramid of Giza and Great Wall of China.
Bedford is considered the "Limestone Capital of the World," and as such tried to use its resources to build replicas of both the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Great Wall of China. The plan was abruptly killed after controversy over the federal government's granting of hundreds of thousands of dollars to complete the project. The ruins of the partially started pyramid still exist, although the wall is just a line of limestone blocks on the ground.
Montana has a replica of the shire from "Lord of the Rings."
The Hobbit House is a replica of J.R.R. Tolkien's shire and has been located in the Cabinet Mountains since 2008. Accommodations are $295 a night.
There's an upside down replica of the White House that makes absolutely no sense.
Top Secret in Dells is an upside down White House that also has upside down furniture and a "fun house" attraction inside. That's not the truly weird part though. It has received a 1.5 rating on both TripAdvisor and Yelp, where people have said that despite the high ticket price tour guides are often nowhere to be found, the heat isn't turned on in the winter, all that's inside is a "shot of air from an air compressor" and that place is just really dusty in general. One reviewer seemed to perfectly sum it up as, "we weren't even sure what the whole point was." That said, although it doesn't seem to be all that fun inside, the reviewers do agree the outside is still pretty cool.
There's actually a chain of upside down White Houses called Wonderworks in 4 other states, but they don't nearly compare to the bizarreness of Dells' Top Secret and seem to be respected establishments.

Half-priced Ski Tickets at Whiteface Mountain's Shamrock Super Sunday

In recent years, I've had pretty bad luck at Whiteface and Little Whiteface Mountains.

About five years ago, I almost got stranded on the top of (big) Whiteface while hiking in the summer. We would have been stuck if there wasn't a highway going down the mountain - the fifth largest in the state.

And about four years ago, I almost got stranded on top of Little Whiteface, which is the mountain used for skiing, aso known in the ski community, apparently, as Iceface. But that ended up being a lot of fun since I got a free Snowcat ride down the nearly 4,000 foot mountain.

Well, it's been a while since I went to Whiteface so maybe my luck will change.

And this sounds fun...Shamrock Super Sunday is being offered this Sunday (March 16) with ski/ride all day for just $40. That is about half price the normal ticket.

You can read more in this press release:

The 56th season of skiing and riding at Whiteface Mountain, in Wilmington, N.Y., continues and the Olympic mountain is celebrating a Shamrock Super Sunday, presented by Bud Light, Sunday, March 16.  Ski and ride all day for just $40 for adults, $35 for teens and $30 for juniors.
After a super day of skiing and riding the east’s greatest vertical, the party moves upstairs to the newly renovated Cloudspin Lounge, with Jagermeister and Bud Light drink specials, games and prizes.   
While at Whiteface be sure to grab your 2014-’15 SKI3 pass for Whiteface Mountain, in Wilmington, N.Y., Gore Mountain, in North Creek, N.Y., and Belleayre Ski Resort, in Highmount, N.Y. This is one big deal.  Combined that’s 7,000 vertical feet of skiing and riding on eight peaks, 886 acres, 33 glades and 227 trails. 
The SKI3 pass is available through April 25 for just $759 for adults and seniors, $399 for young adults and college students and only $299 for juniors. Plus skiers and riders, who are 70 and older, can purchase the pass for only $210.
For those looking to ski just Whiteface next season, there’s still the very popular Whiteface Only Non-Holiday pass for just $459, when purchased by April 25. Get your pass now and ski the rest of this season free.
Don’t forget that all March long, it’s Springfest at the Olympic mountain. There’s a great lineup of events throughout the entire month to include the Apple Butter Open, March 22, Grommet Jam, March 23, and Whiteface Wipeout, March 29, and of course live music and drink specials in the Cloudspin Lounge.
For 23 consecutive years, Whiteface Lake Placid, N.Y. has been selected as the top destination for Off -Hill Activities by readers of SKI Magazine.   The 2014 survey also tabbed Whiteface Mountain as the 10th top ski resort in the eastern United States. Whiteface also received kudos for Après Ski Activities (No. 4), Challenge (4), Scenery (No. 5), Character (No. 6), Dining (9) and Overall Value (No.10).  
This spring, SnowEast Magazine readers chose Whiteface Lake Placid as New York State’s number-one ski resort.  The more than 6,000 participants in the survey also named Whiteface Lake Placid as the east’s second overall favorite ski resort and the east’s most scenic.
Whiteface Lake Placid was also listed in Smarter Traveler’s “10 Best International Ski Destinations.”
Don’t forget about Coca-Cola’s Why Not Wednesdays? Present any empty Coca-Cola product and get a one-day adult lift ticket for only $42 at Whiteface.  Offer not valid with any other offers, programs, promotions, discounts, or frequent skier products. Limit one ticket per can.

For more information on the Olympic venues and events, and for web cams from five locations, please log on to

New Resource for Exploring the Adirondacks

The Adirondack State Park is a truly magical place.

It's where the Miracle on Ice happened in Lake Placid in 1980. It's the home of well-known summer spots like Lake George. And some of the historical sites, including Fort Ticonderoga, are matched only by the beauty of destinations like Ausable Chasm.

You can spend a $1,500 for a week at an original Great Camp. Or you can spend $40 in gas and snacks for a full day of hiking and adventures.

Being the largest park and largest National Historical Landmark in the contiguous U.S., the options are endless.

And it's for these reasons that an app has been created to help travelers with exploring the Adirondacks. The app is called Discover the Adirondack Park.

You can read a bit more in this press release:

The Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages (AATV), Center for Economic Growth (CEG), Central Adirondack Partnership for the 21st Century (CAP-21), and Adirondack Regional Tourism Council (ARTC) announce the launch of a new travel planning app for visitors to the Adirondack Region of Northern New York.
Discover the Adirondack Park is now available for free on iTunes and on Android, providing tailored travel information for first-time and repeat visitors. While adventuring through the Adirondacks, travelers can use the app even if data and Wi-Fi are unavailable to find recreation, lodging, dining, and other information near their current location.
The app allows users who are planning their trip, and those who are already in the Adirondacks, to find relevant travel information based on their needs and geographic location via two filters: “I am Here” and “I am Planning.” Both filters provide specific travel information personalized to the user’s needs via categories such as:
·         Winter Recreation
·         Rock and ice climbing routes
·         Hiking trails and resources
·         Shopping locations
·         Events and attractions
More About the Discover the Adirondacks App
Discover the Adirondacks is compatible with iOS and Android, and serves as an innovative and convenient resource for travelers accessing data from their tablets and smartphones. The Adirondack Park’s diverse recreational opportunities draw many to the region, and the app will help travelers to access these, as well as local places to visit, eat and sleep.
Complementing January’s launch of the Adirondack Trip Planning web portal on, the app directly supports key aspects of the strategic plans developed by the Capital Region, Mohawk Valley, and North Country Regional Economic Development Councils, contributing to investment, sustainability and revitalization in those regions.
Funding for the project was provided by a Regional Economic Development Council “Market NY” grant from Empire State Development, the State’s chief economic development agency, as well as from the Center for Economic Growth.

Download the Discover the Adirondacks app from iTunes and access the Adirondack Trip Planning Web Portal at or, “Discover Recreation.”

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Holding Our Health Hostage

A friend of mine is paying $1,600 for a yeast infection.

I'm not exaggerating. She is paying $1,100 for the ER and $500 for a doctor.

What's sad is that she didn't get the prescription or treatment she needed. What's really sad is that she ended up getting what she needed for only $80 at Planning Parenthood. What's extremely sad is that now she now can't qualify for financial aid from the hospital.

But what's confusing is that she doesn't qualify because she doesn't have health insurance. She was told by the financial aid office that it was now "against the law" for the hospitals to consider giving aid to those without insurance.

I found out about my friend Sarah's issue on Twitter. I think it was a desperate plea for help and an angry cry of foul play all wrapped into one.

And I tend to agree with her. How does it make sense that financial aid is no longer available for people who do not have health insurance? I mean, if they had health insurance they likely would not need the financial aid.

I won't go too in depth about my friend's situation, HIPAA and all that, but I will say that she thought she had a UTI and dealt with that pain for a little over a week. Her health insurance coverage, ironically, had just lapsed a few weeks earlier.

Using WebMD - the modern day, millennial, digital doctor - she read that, if it was a UTI, she needed to get a prescription for an antibiotic which required seeing a doctor. Her husband, who is going to school to be a nurse, agreed.

Not immediately thinking about Planned Parenthood, she checked the internet to see if there were any free or reduced cost general health clinics in the area. She found three, called them all, and none were accepting new or walk-in patients.

She knew she needed to go to either the local ER or OnCall site. In her prior experience, since she's been to both, she had found it easier to deal with the financial aid process through the ER since her last three applications for OnCall somehow slipped through the cracks.

This is probably the point where you'll say: "Why doesn't she just get health insurance?" She obviously goes to the doctor enough. And that's what I thought, too.

But, talking with Sarah, she said in the past eight years she had only been to the doctor on average about once per year. She's lucky and she did not understand the point of paying nearly $2,000 for health insurance annually when she only needed about $300 worth of care.

I could understand that. I could relate with that.

So, Sarah went to the local ER where she was told (after about two hours - a speedy ER visit, actually) that she did not have a UTI and that the doctor thought it was a yeast infection. He prescribed a couple pills that were taken in the hospital and a topical lotion.

Sarah still felt the infection the next day, and a few days later realized she could still go to the Planned Parenthood. She kicked herself for not thinking of it earlier. The next week the local Planned Parenthood had their walk-in clinic. She got there 45 minutes before they opened and still was the sixth in line.

After about three hours, she was told once again that it was not a UTI and they prescribed Diflucan for the yeast infection. The clinician said it was free at the local grocery store pharmacy.

She went that night, took the medicine and felt much better.

This is a happy ending in the sense that Sarah is a healthy 30-something again. She goes to the gym. She eats well. She's happy and, most importantly, healthy.

But I can't help but think that the current health care system now in place across the country does not work and most assuredly does not make sense. It's like the government, hospitals, doctors, and health insurance providers are holding our health hostage.

Clinics are overrun, emergency rooms are crowded and not always helpful, and places like Planned Parenthood have a societal stigma.

Now, in order for Sarah to have a chance to reduce her $1,600 hospital fee, she has to pay $2,500 annually (her insurance would have went up going into 2014) for something she probably won't use until she's pregnant in a few years.

She has an upcoming appointment with a government rep to look over the Obamacare choices that are now available but they look about the same as her work-provided insurance.

Maybe the majority of the population doesn't mind paying 10 percent of their annual income for something they likely won't use.

As for Sarah, she doesn't get it. And, I have to admit, I don't either.

Amtrak's Still-Evolving Writers Residency

I don't know about you but I feel particularly inspired to write when I'm moving - whether it's on a plane, a cruise or a car (in fact, especially when I'm driving in my car, when it seems hardest to write).

But also on a train.

I had the interesting lucky experience of traveling by train from Albany, NY to Denver, CO in July 2007. For those wondering, that is a total of 79 hours on a train. Yes, I counted. Well, 78.5 if you wanna be specific, but I think I earned the right to round up.

Specifically, I had the interesting lucky experience of taking this trip with my family. You see, my dad loves trains and he had always wanted to do a long train trip. So, I went with my two sisters, my brother, and my dad.

(Above: my sister Laura, Right: my sister Jamie)

Since my dad was paying - and the sleeper cars only sleep two people each - I said I would rough it like I did on my Eurail trip.

We took the train from Albany to NYC, then the Lake Shore Limited from NYC to Chicago, and the California Zephyr from Chicago to Denver.

Did everything work out well? Yes. Did we make it to Colorado and back in one piece? Yes. Did I go insane and feel like Jack from The Shining by time we made it to the Rockies? Ahhh, a little. Yep.

Once there, though, I did get to meet my little cousin for the first time and I went on one of my favorite hikes to date at Conundrum Hot Springs.

(My cousin Gage)

Still, I think my exact words when we made it back to Albany after the 79 hours were: "I am never going on a long train trip again."

 (Left: Pikes Peak, Right: my hike with my sister Jamie and brother Adam at Conundrum Hot Springs)

Well, this may be kinda like a pregnancy when right afterwards you say you're never having kids again...and then you do. Or right after a long night of drinking when during your hangover you say you're never touching the stuff again...and then you do.

I'm kinda thinking I might want to do another long train trip.

And, as it happens, Amtrak is now doing what they're calling a "writers residency". The program is still in its infancy so many details are being worked out but they are asking aspiring rail writers to use #AmtrakResidency on Twitter.

Their first one was for a writer who went from NYC to Chicago and back. And I just read that they approved another for someone to go from NYC to Portland.

Well, I've done the cross-country trip via car and that was a good time. But I'm thinking a west coast train trip might be fun, maybe in California.

(Above: my dad, Laura, Jamie and Adam)

And, non-Amtrak related, I eventually want to go across Canada and I hear the train might be a fun way of doing that as well. I think my dad wants to do that trip too, actually. Maybe, this time, I'll pay.

Coming Soon: A Trampoline Park and Mall-located Activity Center

As soon as I saw the word "trampoline park" in my Facebook newsfeed, I was intrigued. I guess, considering I write about venues with skydiving and surfing under one roof, that's not hard to believe.

The Flight Trampoline Park has confirmed that they will be opening in Colonie at 30a Post Road in May.

Whoever does the business' social media is doing a great job because that's how I initially heard about them and they've done a few contests to get the word out.

Also coming soon is a place called Latitude 360 in Crossgates Mall. This, I had not heard much about except through the Albany Business Review's article. The site, slated for the lower level where Glow Golf was previously, will include a bowling alley, sports bar, and entertainment venue in a 50,000 square foot space.

To me, such an entertainment area makes sense in a mall. Now, everyone does the majority of their shopping online so it makes more sense to use mall space for entertainment purposes.

It's expected to open this fall. I look forward to checking it out.

International Food Festival in Albany

I did an article recently about a Troy teaching assistant who gave a presentation about her father's journey from Nigeria. After about 45 minutes of interviewing her about her pride in Nigerian heritage, culture, and family, we got to the really good stuff - talking about Nigerian food.

And it was then that I realized that this area has no African restaurants to speak of. Yes, there are a couple Caribbean eateries but it's not the same. That'd be like saying all food in New York and New Mexico are the same. They're definitely not.

It was also then that I decided I need a little more international food in my life.

So, I'm extremely interested in an upcoming event being put on by the International Center of the Capital Region - their inaugural (I prefer "inaugural" to "first annual") TASTES which will be March 27 at the WAMC Linda on Central Avenue in Albany.

It will showcase food from around the world through the help of local, international chefs and restaurants. I'm not sure Nigerian food is on the menu, but it seems like a good variety. The list is below.

Tickets are $50, or $60 on the day of.

Mark your calendars and prepare for some international goodness!

From the release:
On Thursday, March 27th the International Center of the Capital Region in collaboration with WAMC will hold our First Annual International Food Tasting Event entitled TASTES of the World at the Linda, WAMC’s Performing Arts Center, 339 Central Avenue.

Area restaurants will provide sample-sized world cuisine, with food ranging from French and Indonesian, to Middle Eastern and Mediterranean. Many fine restaurants, area chefs and cultural/affinity groups will be participating.

Additionally several well-known NYS Vintners including Brotherhood, Dr. Frank and Hudson-Chatham, as well as Chatham Brewery will be present sharing samples.

Participating restaurants/chefs include: the Century House with Chef Michael, the Chocolate Gecko, Flavors of India with Chef Dalip Kapur, La Empanada Llama, Normanside Country Club with Executive Chef Kenneth Ruud, R&G Cheesemakers with Sean O’Connor, Terra with Chef Marvin Flowers, the Turkish Cultural Center, Yono’s with Executive Chef Yono Purnomo and Pastry Chef Joan Dembinski.

Tickets are available prior to March 27th for $50 by calling (518) 708-7608 and at the door on the day of the event for $60. Proceeds from the event to benefit the International Center. 

Russian Winter Festival in Schenectady

I received the below press release near the start of all the issues in Crimea and thought it was especially important now to understand the traditions and cultures in Russia.

As the person who sent me the release pointed out: "With all the disturbing news coming out of Russia these days, it's time for something positive."

Basically there is an annual Winter Festival at the Proctor's Theatre and Cafe Nola, with dancing, music and other entertainment.

There are events tonight (Thursday) and Saturday, March 8.

Admission is $6 for adults, $3 for children 5-years-old and older.

You can find more information here.

From an email:

The Russian Winter Festival 2014 is in full swing, events are happening regularly. The headliner for the Festival is the Russian folk group Art-Trio Volnitsa from Moscow.  An instrumental group,  Art-trio Volnitsa from Moscow gives a new sounding to well-known old masterpieces of Russian music. Their audience enjoys Kalinka, Barynia and other folk songs, as well as interpretations of classical pieces of Musorgsky, Tchaikovsky and Lyadov freshly performed with balalaika contrabass, balalaika prima, and bayan (Russian button accordion). The style of the group can be defined as modern Pop-Folk, both improvisational arrangements and chamber spirit makes it kind of 'Russian jazz'. 

Art-Trio Volnitsa consists of three musicians: Pavel Boykov, bass-balalaika; Denis Zhukov, prima-balalaika; and Vladimir Demchenko, Russian accordion (bayan). All three are renowned for their interpretation of Russian classical and folk music as well as more contemporary jazz, pop, and rock pieces. The group has performed in France, UK, Czech Republic, South Korea, and US. You can check their music on Youtube at

Schedule of Art-Trio Volnitsa Performances:

Cafe Nola 

March 6 6:30pm, 617 Union St, Schenectady

Grand Finale Russian Winter Festival
March 8 12pm - 5pm, Proctors, 432 State St, Schenectady

The Grand Finale of the Six Annual Russian Winter Festival will be at 12pm March 8 in Proctors Theatre in Schenectady.  The Grand Finale events include Art-trio Volnitsa; Children Ensemble "Golden Rooster", Brooklyn NY; "Frosty" Drama Club, New Russia Cultural Center; "Princess-the-Frog ", Children's Theater, Mid-Hudson Russian Community Association; "Remembering Russia" Art Show by Tatiana Rhinevault; Winners of Tchaikovsky Piano and Nadezhda Obukhova Classical Vocal Competitions; Russian Poetry Recital and Best Braided Hairdo Contests, Red Army 3rd Rifle Division Reenacting Group, Balloons by Victor the Clown.