Day 6: Columbus, OH

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The day started by sharing the lesson of self-regulation with Jen and her progeny the Gabey Baby.  Thanks to Cookie Monster, and his wise parodying, we have learned that even if me want it, me must wait.

Jen and I couldn’t figure out what this was parodying presumably because it is not Bruce Springsteen or Cyndi Lauper. I did some research though, and here it is. I still don’t get it.

Jen and I dropped a reluctant toddler at daycare, and went into Columbus, Ohio.

I was not sure what Columbus would be like, as Akron is kind of doodoo (sorry, Troy), but was pleasantly surprised as there were many small businesses that seemed wicked cool, as well as the city was already advertising a month in advance for Pride.

Prepping for Pride in Columbus, OH

Prepping for Pride in Columbus, OH

Advertising for the Gay Games

Advertising for the Gay Games

First stop was the North Market.  Dudes, this place is awesome.  They have vendors for everything – coffee, ethnic food, fancy bread, bubble tea, game meat, weird popcorn, beautiful aromatic spices, a fill-your-own-growler beer seller … You just walk in the door and everything smells amazing.

They have all the things.

They have all the things.

Beautiful displays at North Market Spices

Beautiful displays at North Market Spices

Jeni's!

Jeni’s!

So, naturally we had ice cream at Jeni’s for breakfast because obviously.  The flavors are unreal, and you can taste any/all of them.  One was “Oregon Fir” flavored with actual pine.  WHAT.  Amazing.   I ended up having a scoop of Cultured Key Lime Pie Frozen Yogurt (it didn’t taste like forgurt – it tasted like tart MAGIC) and Brambleberry Crisp.  I was tempted by the Wildberry Lavender, though, with its complexity.

We went upstairs to see the whole facility from above, and noticed some hilarious posters for upcoming concerts.  Why hilarious? Take this pair of posters, for instance:

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Why are the Wailers with 311 and not Ziggy Marley?  Weird, right?

Alright that wasn’t hilarious, but this one is:

The 90s were a magical time.

The 90s were a magical time.

I am pretty sure the date on that should be something more in the neighborhood of 1994, not 2014.

Which reminds me, Jen and I were pretty much the same teenager in the mid-90s.  It is sort of amazing.

We perused a bookshop with many discount and interesting books, and then headed back through Columbus towards her home so I could get on the road for the trip to Lynchburg ahead of me.

I have great news as well as a result of this visit: I have signed a non-disclosure agreement, but I can tell you that I am in on the ground floor of an exciting franchise opportunity.  I can only share with you two words regarding the nature of this winner, two words that Jen’s sweet husband no longer thought was funny after three days of hearing about it: POTATO JAMMERS.  Look forward to more information about the hottest new food sensation soon!

SMALL OLD & INTERESTING

SMALL OLD & INTERESTING

Off I went from Ohio toward Lynchburg, Virginia.  A trip that was supposed to take six and a half hours but most assuredly did not.  Finishing out the state of Ohio was not a big deal.  It was a sunny day, had a good book in the CD player, and all seemed well.

Then I crossed the border into West Virginia.

Most of the state alleged to be under road construction, so please only go 55 instead of 70.  That sounds totally reasonable aside from the fact there was no actual road construction, only 100 miles of cones.

At one point, I needed to stop for gas so I picked an exit that had said there was a Citgo, and disembarked from the highway.  All the pumps had those yellow mittens saying “No gas” so I decided to drive down the road a piece to see if there was another station.  There was not.

Instead I found narrow, poorly-maintained roads, and a coal mine.  I notice the coal mining operation at first not because of the equipment, but because of the giant sign at the end of the road leading to it declaring “FOR AMBULANCE USE ONLY”.  This drove home to me the importance of perhaps converting current coal-powered facilities to biomass or something.  If you have a job that is not in a hospital that has its own designated ambulance entrance, perhaps that is not a safe job to have.

I turned around in a Baptist church parking lot that was completely jammed with cars at 6 p.m. on a Wednesday night, and got back on the highway.  In a few miles was a proper travel plaza and I put gas in my car there.

West Virginia has so many frigging bugs that at first I thought it was snow in the headlights, and it sounded like sleet on my windshield.  Except it wasn’t ice – it was guts.  All the bug guts in the world.  Holy. Crap.  I felt like I was driving through Jurassic Park … of bugs.

Once I got into Virginia, the road to get to Lynchburg is like that scene from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure where Pee Wee is driving Mickey’s car at night and the road signs look like a pile of intestines.

I did finally get to Anne’s (thekrazysheep in Nerd Wars) and all was well.

Day 5: Indiana

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My chaperones for the walk up to the barn.

My chaperones for the walk up to the barn.

I woke up leisurely Tuesday morning to homemade English muffins and Amanda’s awesome cat.  Then it was on the road south to adventure in Indiana then ultimately Ohio.

I was finishing up the Paddle your Own Canoe audio book and enjoying myself pretty well as I waved goodbye to fantastic Chicago.

I really want to visit Chicago again soon (in the grand scheme of things).  It has great energy and there are so many things I still need to see and do.   New friends to get to know better and old friends I will never get sick of spending time with.  Chicago fills my heart up pretty well, I’d say.

The most notable item about my drive from Chicago to a little farm in Indiana was the wind farm I drove through.  I didn’t get any photos because I was driving, so I will try to explain it.

Now, I have seen windmills before.  There’s one on the way to Boston.  Fifty feet tall.  No big deal.  Sure, windmill.

I am heading down the highway and all of a sudden on both sides of the road are these HUGE windmills, maybe 250 feet tall?  HUGE.  First a few, then as far as the eye could see on either side of the road. I felt like I was driving through the future.  There was one that had turbines not moving. It flipped me out, like a huge robot sentinel trying to disguise itself among the windmills, ready to zap someone with its secret laserbeam eyeball.

Once I had cleared the spinning robot army, I arrived in a small town north of Indianapolis to visit Joanna (JoannaSpring in Nerd Wars).

Joanna is wicked sweet, and her house has haunted house shutters, as she had indicated!  I was greeted by her dog who may have peed on me a little bit.  Whoops.  Sugar’s got a black tongue.  Not blue, like a Chow’s, but legitimately black.  She is so sweet and my buddy now.

There were free-roaming chickens of so many varieties!  They followed us out to the barn, hoping for bananas.

Nubian goats Saffron and Kaylee, and Southdown sheep Martha, Clara and Rose were in the barn, along with a pretty swallow in the ceiling, and a curious lady turkey.


After some homemade bread with homemade raspberry preserves, I was off east to Ohio.

There was a traffic accident just outside of Indianapolis which made everything sort of stand still. Wheee…

I made it to the home of Jen (Satonika in Nerd Wars) and her family before dark, and we went out for wings and deep fried cauliflower for dinner.  Deep fried cauliflower is my new favorite thing.  Om. Nom. NOM.

I updated Nerd Wars when we got back to the house and then socked out, despite the advances of German Shepherd mix Zisa.  She is very insistent, and very goofy.

Day 4: Chicago

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Grocery store flowers

Grocery store flowers

I sure did start off my day with homemade blueberry scones and tea.  The lovely Amanda is an awesome cook, and wakes early which is a fantastic attribute, especially since the time zone difference weirded me out.

After a leisurely morning of updating the sign-up counts for Nerd Wars: Geek Noosphere and observing the bird in the nest outside Amanda’s front window, I made my way to Des Plaines to see my friend Rick.

I met Rick when we worked at the ill-fated International WoodFuels. We had hit it off instantly and he remains to this day one of my very favorite people on earth, despite our unfortunately infrequent interaction.

Today he bought me a Chicago hot dog for lunch.  It had tomatoes on it!  What!

Chicago dog

Chicago dog

It was an exceptionally nice visit, though I think Rick would have preferred to take me some place fancier. Honestly, I did not care one iota where we went just so long as I was with my friend.

I came back to Amanda’s and it was time to explore Chicago!  First stop?  Only the most amazing grocery store on the planet.  Mariano’s is a crazy grocery shopping adventure.  Walk in the door, and you are greeted with fresh flowers, a coffee shop, a smoothie place, and a freaking bar all in the lobby.  Go up an escalator, and there is a liquor store and a bar … in the store.

And a sushi bar, BBQ joint, oyster bar, confectionary, and more.  You can buy a bottle of wine and a silly straw and walk around the store like that.  And, the fishmonger is from Medford, Mass.

You should have seen the pineapple display.  Makes these eggplants look like nothing.

You should have seen the pineapple display. Makes these eggplants look like nothing.

From there I enjoyed the adventure of Chicago public transit by way of bus and train.

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It was a Monday in the middle of the day, so things weren’t particularly crowded anywhere we went.

First stop was Wrigley Field. Oh, Cubbies. One day, my friends. One day.

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We walked from there down to Lincoln Park, Amanda pointing out lots of interesting things from the neighborhoods in which she lived or worked in the past.

Mr. and Mrs. Mallard do not have time for silly photos.

Mr. and Mrs. Mallard do not have time for silly photos.

So many trees were in bloom; it was just lovely.  A duck couple took a romantic stroll down by the water.  Pathway puddles were festooned with epic piles of colorful turds offered by legions of waterfowl.

We made our way to the Lincoln Park Zoo.  We maneuvered around some construction for the new Macaque exhibit, and tried to make sense of the cartoonish map of the facility.  However, it was not hard to find true magnificence right inside the gate.

Nyah.

Nyah.

I do not remember this tiger’s name, but he is sticking his tongue out at you.

In the next area was a lion named Molly.  She was very handsome and also not having any of anyone’s shit.   She is the elder stateswoman of the cat area, and she currently shares her area with a transplant from the Bronx Zoo named Sahar, who at two years old is a whippersnapper of the first degree.  Mane or no mane, you know who is really in charge here.

I see you there.

I see you there.

Did I mention a giraffe? There’s a giraffe.  Apparently there are five but we only saw one.  Oh my gosh.  So elegant.

Delicious shelf.

Delicious shelf.

Then the polar bear.  Her name is Anana, which according to a nice lady who works at the zoo with her son, is a portmanteau of the Inuit word for beautiful, and also the word for pineapple in another language.  This 700-pound apex predator’s name is Beautiful Pineapple.  Wow.

Yes I took one million photos.  Wouldn’t you?  I mean, sheesh.  SHE IS A BEAUTIFUL PINEAPPLE.

Oh and check it out.  Second City. NO BIG DEAL.

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Amanda made wonderful dinner and then we went out to a pub to meet Becca (ThatBeccaPerson in Nerd Wars) for some drinks.  The place we wanted to go to was packed with people for some event, so we went somewhere nearby called the Grafton.  Wicked nice waitress.

I started with some local fare – whiskey barrel aged mead from right in Chicago.  Delicious.  The nose was heavenly, and the taste was sublime.

I wanted a flight of 1 oz pours but the waitress advised against it, saying to just go for it.

I wanted a flight of 1 oz pours but the waitress advised against it, saying to just go for it.

I then went to my standby of an Dickel Rye Old Fashioned.  Ugh.  UGH.  Is there … soda water in this?!  /dies from awful.

What in the world could possibly make this travesty better?  How about a dozen local musicians presumably from the Old Town School of Folk Music next door playing Sweet Sue.  You bet your sweet bippy I got up and danced and sang along. Becca humored me and danced with me.  Great end to a great day.

Day 3: Driving forever

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Yesterday I left Lisa’s house in Rochester after a wonderful sunny breakfast of heart-shaped biscuits and sunny scrambled eggs (the key ingredient is cottage cheese!), I was off West on I-90.

I-90 West lasts forever, and once you get out of New York, everything is flat.  I stopped in Pennsylvania and Axe Cop was impressed by the grape vines.

I will chop their grapes off!

I will chop their grapes off!

Upstate New York has a LOT of cows. If I were traveling with someone else, the game of Cemetery Cancels Cow would have been epic.

I stopped in Akron, Ohio for a drink and a bite with my former coworker Troy.  He worked for Page One out in Ohio, and so since I’m in Maine, I never met him in person.  He is really tall!  I had no idea.  And he likes bourbon.  And good beer.

Hoppin' Frog Brewery Silk Porter

Hoppin’ Frog Brewery Silk Porter

Hoppin' Frog Brewery Hoppin' to Heaven IPA

Hoppin’ Frog Brewery Hoppin’ to Heaven IPA

We were at this place called the Winking Lizard Tavern (in a strip mall because apparently that is how Ohio exists), which was actually pretty darned rad. It is like a fancy beer store, so you pick out what you want, bring it to the bartender who chills it, then brings it to you with a fancy glass. They also have whiskey flights. And, a long pour of Elmer T. Lee for only $7. It was cheaper than Blanton’s! We enjoyed the local beer stylings of Hoppin’ Frog Brewery. Real nice stuff!

Back on the road I went, for six hours of driving ahead of me.  Instead of a song from one of the mixes today, I will share with you some Nick Offerman, as I am listening to his Paddle Your Own Canoe.

Driving on I-90W I noticed many wacky things. Such as the RV/MH Hall of Fame. That’s Recreational Vehicle/Motor Home Hall of Fame. What. I saw a family of goats in a meadow hopping along together. Lots of farms.  Everything is wicked flat here.

I also visited the grossed frigging rest stop ever.  The gas was cheap but there was also this:

Why are you sketchy, Indiana?

Why are you sketchy, Indiana?

I don’t know where the time zone change happened, but driving west is real weird because the sun didn’t set until like 9 p.m. Or 8 p.m. I have no idea. Either way, the sun was huge, this giant red blob sinking into farms on the horizon. It was quite lovely.

I was about half an hour away from my host Amanda’s (MandeeMoose in Nerd Wars), and I saw the giant Welcome to Chicago sign and just started to laugh. HOLY CRAP I AM IN CHICAGO. It was ridiculous, and wonderful.

Driving in Chicago is so different than most of the other big cities I’ve driven in. People actually go a speed resembling the speed limit. It is 55? They go 60, and at least last night appeared to be pretty polite about it. Unlike in New York where it is 55 and you best be going 70 or we will be Very Upset with you.

By some miracle I got a parking spot right in front of the apartment, and came into the apartment to find kittehs!

Moose is a very handsome fellow.

Moose is a very handsome fellow.

One doesn’t realize how much she needs having animals around until she is away from her pets.

 

Day 2: Rochester, NY

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Gorgeous blooms at the Rochester Lilac Festival

Gorgeous blooms at the Rochester Lilac Festival

This morning Maggie and I started the day with an amazing breakfast at The Illium Cafe in Troy, NY.  Maggie got the incredible pulled duck omelet (!!) and I had the corned beef hash and the “poinsettia” mimosa which is champagne and cranberry juice.  The portions were ridiculous, and the taste was outstanding.

Maggie models mimosa

Maggie models mimosa

We wandered back to her apartment by way of the farmer’s market, which was incredible.  So many neat vendors, and so many free samples, including liquor.  Peach brandy?  Yes please.

Harvest Spirits Distillery booth at the Troy farmers market

Harvest Spirits Distillery booth at the Troy farmers market

Harvest Spirits Farm Distillery makes vodka from apples.  I never knew there was such a thing as that.  Potatoes, yes. But apples?  So interesting! And the bottles themselves were beautiful.

I bought some cheese curds and strawberry rhubarb yogurt from a delightful fellow.

Cheese man with his wares

Cheese man with his wares

The yogurt is in this little glass jar that will be perfect for any number of things. Maybe hair elastics.

As I packed my bag into my car in the parking garage near Maggie’s house, I noticed a boat.  It struck me as a little odd at first, like it was parked at the parking garage.  But there it was, floating on the big blue wobbly thing that is the Hudson River that just runs through Troy.  I don’t now why it felt so weird to me, since I live in Portland and see boats on the waterfront every day.  Portland is surrounded on three sides by a big blue wobbly thing.  Alas, the Hudson River is huge and crazy for no discernible reason.

Parking garage boat

Parking garage boat

Then it was West toward Rome.  Rome’s where my grandfather was from, and it has been important for me for a long time to visit there.  To see buildings now that are the same buildings he walked by when he was young.

Rome did not disappoint me.

The drive there was lovely – like Vermont without the mountains. While the leaves in Maine were still that fresh yellow-green, just beginning to peek out when I left, the trees are all lush and stretching like summer is here already.  The sky today was blue and open.

Rome itself is very honest, with some incredible architecture.  A man on the sidewalk waved to me and smiled as I took my photos of Fort Stanwix. The Gansevoort-Bellamy Historic District of Rome was exactly what I was hoping for, and I didn’t know it was there until I arrived.  The Old City Hall building (which I could not get a decent photo of) was big, red, and magnificent, and I did get a (crappers) photo of the courthouse.

I am really happy I made a point to stop there, and I would like to again when I have more time, with research done before my arrival so I have more depth of appreciation.  History is so important as we move forward in live as a collective people and also as individuals.  Personal and family history is just as important.

Fort Stanwix under so much sky

Fort Stanwix under so much sky

I got into Rochester for some late lunch with Lisa (LisaJedi from NW:GN), her family, and Kate (DrDomestiKated from NW:GN).  We had a very excellent visit and Kate made strawberry pi(e)!  She is on team Paranormal Investigations, and so their initials result in many Pi references.

Kate and I approve of her pi(e)

Kate and I approve of her pi(e)

Brendan (bluehamsterbean), me, Lisa (LisaJedi) and Kate (drdomestiKated)

Brendan (bluehamsterbean), me, Lisa (LisaJedi) and Kate (drdomestiKated)

After Kate went home, Lisa and her family and I walked down to the Rochester Lilac Festival in Highland Park.  I eagerly await the day that scent can be recorded and played back.  There were dozens of varieties of lilac, all so unique; with different scents, sizes, blooms, leaves …  I will leave you this gallery of photos and call it a night.

Day 1: Portland, ME to New York’s capital region

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I left work today after lunch (Friday lunch – take out from Duckfat!), and headed west toward the Albany area.

First of all, I realized very quickly how awesome my friends are at mix CDs.  I’m going to post videos every day of songs from these mixes because they are fantastic.

I’ve driven across Massachusetts toward Albany several times, and this was no different: lots of lookie-loos around Worcester.  I mean, come on guys.  There are always accidents.  Do you really need to slow to 15 mph to check it out?

I got to East Greenbush, NY in time for dinner with my friend Dan.  We had sushi at a place near his house and it was a delight. It was so nice to see my friend!  We saw a very purple Challenger in the parking lot, so I photo’d it.

All the purple muscle car.

All the purple muscle car.

After that I headed to Schenectady to the Schenectady Light Opera Company to see Nerd Warrior Maggie (RedMaggie) in the production of Young Frankenstein the Musical.  It was hilarious, and the set was really impressive.

Intermission is for fun

Intermission at SLOC’s Young Frankenstein

Froderick's castle

The set for SLOC’s Young Frankenstein

It was also POURING rain.  Ridiculous amounts of heavy heavy rain. Fortunately Maggie’s husband rode with me back to her apartment so I could make it there through the flooded Schenectady streets.

Around 2 a.m. as I was falling asleep at Maggie’s I realized that I was on Vacation.  I am on vacation.  I. Am. On. Vacation.  You guys.  I am on vacation.

Amazing Nerd Wars road trip begins!

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My first documented adventure for this site is one I have been bandying about for a while.  My lovely auntie gave me a very generous gift of $500 for Christmas a couple of years ago, with the stipulation I must tell her what I have done with the money.  No problem!

So now the time is right, and I will be traveling around the upper right hand quarter of the United States to meet as many Nerd Warriors as possible.  This is a great time for this, as we begin the rebrand of Nerd Wars: Geek Noosphere.

Woot!