christmas 2008

The one in the arena...

I spend most of my early weekday evenings Tweeting about Jeopardy!. While it's fun to opine and/or snipe from the sidelines, it was quite another experience to step onto the field of trivia battle and test my own mettle on The Jeopardy! Fan's podcast game show, Complete The List. It's Episode 47, "There's A Reason I Tell My Students That Dates Aren't Important." Here's the show on various platforms:
Beyond the great diversity of the trivia presented, there are several unique aspects of the format that make the game fun to play along with, whether you're actually doing so or just listening along at home.
  • Having written many categories for the show (and having had three of them played), the range of the knowledge challenged is massive, and the category names add another twist. Those names run the gamut between easily deducible (as in a couple of categories in my episode) to entirely opaque (there have been more than a few categories that were total surprises to the players who picked them).
  • The element of defense introduced by "cribbing," or repeating an opponent's response earlier in that pass for half the value. It can be advantageous in a category that you're not strong in... but if you pick a category that isn't what you think it is, you don't have the crib at your disposal.
  • The deployment of the double. It gives a player the ability to drop the hammer in a category (s)he knows, but delaying too long can be a liability; if you don't affirmatively double a round, the final round before the final is automatically doubled. I particularly remember Andy's father getting painted into a corner on a recent episode, having to play a category selected by an opponent at double points.
So, on to my recollections of the episode. If you haven't listened yet and don't want any details, spoiler alert: STOP HERE.

Round 1: Pack 'Em In. Didn't anticipate what it would be, but the reveal put me on firm ground - and so too with my two opponents. I was able to deploy a detail; knowing that the category author was from New Jersey, that's right where I went. After that, it was to small Northeastern states and also knowing that Florida was one of the most populous states.

Round 2: God Save The Queen. I had a suspicion about what this one would be, and when Andy confirmed that, I could not double quickly enough - but had to contain my enthusiasm throughout the category, to not let on to Pat and Troy that I was all over this one. This category was particularly in my wheelhouse because I had intended to submit it right after the game, under the category "Will This Reign Ever End?" (referring to Her Majesty). It was also a nice touch for me to be able to give New Zealand as a response; we recorded three days before I flew out on my last vacation.

Round 3: After a Band-Aid, Do This. Didn't have a great feel for this one, and it showed out of the gate, with me giving my first incorrect response of the game. The magic of editing hides it, but I recall thinking for a few seconds longer before finally pulling Cyndi Lauper. After that, I drew blanks - but playing each pass last, I had two options to crib from, and so I took advantage.

Halftime. Definitely pleased that I was didn't whiff on any of the eight years. The third question (year of "Everything" by the Bangles being released) was particularly an example of CTL strategy I'd picked up from listening to the show; I knew it was the 1980s, but was clueless on the exact year. Thus, give the year than ends in 5 to cover the entire decade, take the half point, and move on - perhaps I might get lucky.

Round 4: The Other Major League. Pat doubled, but I wasn't fazed; I knew I wouldn't drop any points with twenty-two MLS teams to choose from. Among the "portions not affecting game play" that were edited out was a query as to whether a city name alone would suffice; I mooted that, giving both teams in the only metro area that has more than one, and it was nice to get the team from my current area on the last pass.

Round 5: It's Really Hot. My second turn to pick, and this seemed like the least daunting of the remaining four - but even after the prompt was given, I was no means certain that I'd take maximum points, and breathed a sigh of relief that I did.

Round 6: Oh, The Books You Can Write! Ugh. Children's lit. As the intros revealed, both my opponents have young kids - I knew I'd probably drop points here. After giving Horton Hears A Who on the first pass, I dropped into the equivalent to "prevent defense" by cribbing. You can hear it on the last pass through, when I talk about slipping into a tie with Pat. I knew that by cribbing from him, we'd be tied if he was right and I'd have a one-point lead if not. He was right, and so I went to the last question dead even...

Grand Finale. My wager was based directly off standard Jeopardy! theory - which states that if you're tied for the lead, you have two options: everything or nothing. And with Troy only nine points back, the latter was out. The full sixteen it is. I had no idea what "Slowly I Turned" meant; I only just now looked it up and discovered the connection to Niagara Falls. I've been there, but it was many, many years ago; I didn't quite have a sense of how big the drop was. The reveal was deflating... but not as deflating as Pat's response, which meant that even if he'd maxed out too, the tiebreaker wouldn't save me. That said, I didn't step on Andy's attempt to build suspense that I knew wasn't actually there.

It's most fortunate that unlike Jeopardy!, Andy invites previous players back onto Complete The List - hopefully, I'll get another try at it and can improve on my second-place showing. There was another contestant call that I think closed recently; if you're a trivia fan, whenever the next one is, sign up and go for it!
christmas 2008

Bonecoming 2017: the second and more contemporaneous part

A few days ago, I posted an entry about my trip back to Cornell last October, and promised to share a Facebook post I wrote shortly after I returned to Pennsylvania - here it is.

Necessary context: this was originally written on the night on Monday, October 23, 2017, and is unchanged from the original. I’d written most of it when I got the news from Oregon that my half-brother and sister-in-law welcomed a daughter the previous Thursday night - as it happens, after I’d arrived in central New York, and was catching up at the Ithaca Ale House. It was a total shock to both me and my brother - neither of us had any idea this kid was coming!

Anyway, on with these now six month old words... and SCREW BU, LET'S GO RED!!

For the past few days, you've come along on a wonderful trip through an amazing slice of my past - a slice that gets deeper and more meaningful with each trip back to the foot of Cayuga Lake. Some of you lived it - and your own good old days on the Hill - through my words and photos here. I'll add to those with one thought I posted elsewhere: "at postgame, it’s not how many notes you remember correctly - it’s all about the passion & memories the notes inspire." And some of you lived it just as I did - by reconnecting and connecting anew, forging and strengthening bonds that will resonate and reverberate through the years. They're bonds that will give each of us, the Big Red Bands, and Cornell University the power to stand upon an unshakable shared foundation, and the flexibility to grow and adapt with changing times.

But - and especially on this night, the night I learned I've become an uncle for the first time - there's one more moment I have to enter into the record. It happened back in my hotel on Friday night, after so much was so greatly said and done at Bonehouse. Those who know me at least fairly well - certainly those who've played trivia with me - know that my mind is capable of pulling deep. And in that post-two o'clock in the morning reverie, it pulled a quote from "Miracle" - "because we're a family..."

... and I totally lost it. Absolutely broke down in tears.

It's not just a family I'd want to go to Lake Placid with - it's a family I'd want to go with to Vladivostok or any other end of the earth. It's a family that three years ago, when my childhood home and my mother were taken from me in one fell swoop, stepped up and shared that burden with me, without asking for a thing in return... and when I wondered whether to share it with them, reminded me in no uncertain terms - now more than ever, tell the bones. And I know I'm not the only one who has been so warmly embraced in such a dark hour. Toby, we still miss you. Owen and Hannah too, both of whom I feel poorer for not having introduced myself when I surely had the chance.

Let me try to shift this to a happier note by channeling one of our fictional own, President Thomas A. Kirkman.

Cornell is not simply a university, nor is it the sum of seven colleges. It's an idea. A bold and righteous idea... any person, any study. And just the same as those who break new ground in research, and those who don our colors and take the playing surfaces... those who raise their instruments and don the same carnelian and white do so much to lift that chorus, and speed it onward.

It shall always be the regret of my life that my own actions and choices did not get me to the finish line - did not enable me to earn that Cornell degree. But it has been - and ever shall be - the honor of my life to count you as my friends. That honor is worth more than any piece of sheepskin, and it's a privilege to pay back a little bit of that worth each spring when the time comes, and each fall when I point my car toward where the compass of my heart tells me north is.

Whether I see you next month, next year, or further on in the future - and whether it's near me, near you, or back at our castle on the Hill - may the blessings of Ezra and Andrew forever fall upon you and yours.

Far above... hail, all hail, and love to thee.
christmas 2008

You are here... and you are home.


May 1996. My high school band took a trip to Toronto. (We could do such things without passports back then.) The outbound leg of that trip included a stop at Ithaca College for us to play. As we approached, I caught a glimpse of a clock tower off in the distance. Even then, the East Hill had my attention. Tom Brokaw reading "pumpkin atop the clock tower" on NBC Nightly News a year and a half later did nothing to dissuade my mind. As 1998 came to a close and I'd taken my visits, I kept my options open, but I knew what I wanted - nay, what I'd set my heart on. Fees were paid, applications were filed...

... and hopes were fulfilled. A favorite podcaster of mine advocates for discarding celebration of your birthday in favor of your "achievement day." A few in the last nineteen years come to mind - getting my dolphins in September 2006, finally taking my bachelor's degree in December 2011, passing my NRC operating license exam in January 2016 - but getting the fat envelope on April 3, 1999 still rings clear and true for me. The enclosed folder bore a striking title: "The Case for Cornell" - as you can probably deduce from the words above, I'd long since delivered summary judgment in favor of the Big Red.

I matriculated to the East Hill; fun was had, mistakes (on my part) were made... but most importantly, deep and lasting friendships were forged. Notwithstanding my failure to take a degree from Cornell, it's those friendships that keep me coming back to Ithaca year after year. I was particularly ecstatic to make the trip last year, as I was coming off six consecutive night shifts. We made a decision to bring down one of our reactors to go and fix a problem; just as the last of those six shifts was concluding, a colleague and I had brought that unit critical again. That was a great jumping off point for Bonecoming 2017.

I'm not going to deeply detail the events of the weekend here. But I do want to reference two things - one short, one long. The first: a Tweet I fired off from the Schoellkopf Crescent, as the Big Red were well on their way to victory over Brown - "Awesome as #CornellHomecoming is, seeing tweets from those not here reminds me how poorer we are for the absence of they & their families." And the second is a lengthy Facebook post I wrote after I got back here to Pennsylvania - and that I had to re-write after my half-brother delivered some game-changing news to me on October 23. Those words seemed to move many of my friends on that platform, and I'll reproduce them in full here in a post to follow.

In the many years since I left Cornell, one of the things I belatedly realized about it is perhaps one of its greatest strengths - that it's big enough for everybody. Two people can matriculate at the same time and have completely disparate experiences. The East Hill truly embodies a certain title and lyric from Fleetwood Mac, one that I particularly recalled in Halifax on Canada Day last year - "you can go your own way."

Cornell gave me so many great memories, including a bunch that unfolded on patches of artificial turf. But as Cornellians, we don't define ourselves by what happens on artificial turf on any given autumn Saturday, nor by those seemingly eternal four and a half seconds on Memorial Day 2009. How might we define ourselves? Easy - not by those seven letters on a piece of sheepskin, but by how we bring our experiences far above Cayuga's waters to bear upon the world around us, near and far. One memory always keeps this in clear focus for me. Back when I was an undergrad, Yale came to visit us for Homecoming. As I marched with the band to the tailgate on Kite Hill, my friends and I noticed a gentleman holding above his head a banner, one that read "For God, For Country, and For Yale." I immediately knew how the Big Red version would read, and it hasn't changed from that day to today...

christmas 2008

Viridi Montibus MMXVII


One ever-present memory from the 1990s was my family's camping trips to Vermont - sans my Dad, who quite preferred his golfing trips to Ocean City and/or South Carolina and/or Scotland. The rest of us made our way to the Green Mountain State just about every summer for between one and two weeks in a lean-to. After the summer preceding my senior year of high school, my mom and brother might have made one or two more trips. But that 1998 trip was my last, and was it a doozy. My mom being the traffic-averse person she was, she insisted on a departure at 5:00 am on Sunday - less than twelve hours after I'd returned home from what my high school officially called "Summer Music Clinic" at the now-defunct LIU Southampton; to translate that last bit for the rest of you, "five days of band camp." The short turnaround quite begrudged me, and my recollection is that my brother was also none too pleased. The combined effect of how we felt was to leave the trip cut short by multiple days, both of us having exhausted our mental energy.

My travels with the Big Red Marching and Pep Bands brought me to and through Vermont on multiple occasions over the next few years. By "through," I mean "on the way to Dartmouth," occasionally with overnight stays in White River Junction. And by "to," I'm referencing Gutterson Field House in Burlington - which was, during my first undergraduate stint, a member of the ECAC Hockey League. The Catamounts were also just coming off an infamous hazing scandal in my freshman year, one of sufficient gravity to cause UVM's president to levy the death penalty on the team's season. "Baby Elephant Walk" figured prominently in our repertoire in the years immediately following.

I must admit that I'd only occasionally given thought to Vermont in the intervening decade and a half. Until... I took some time off from work, time that I didn't otherwise have plans for. But the thought of that particular slice of my past gradually rang louder and louder in my mind - until about 4:30 on the afternoon of August 28, at which time I booked a room at the Best Western in Bennington - and about five minutes later, I loaded a suitcase into the back of the Jeep and took off. Five and a half hours later, I'd reached the jumping off point for two most amazing days.


From Bennington the next morning, I made my way first to the Vermont Country Store, timing a stop in Manchester to ensure I wouldn't arrive before it opened. I spent a not insignificant amount of time browsing, which led to purchases of a glass that sits in my cabinet, a bottle of hand soap at my bathroom sink, a calendar on the wall just over my left shoulder, and a sweatshirt that I'm wearing as I'm typing this. Pretty good bang for the buck, I'd say. Next stop: Killington. Our family didn't go near it when we came up here two decades ago... but for one, I wanted to see it, and for two, it had the Beast Coaster - next best thing to the Alpine Slide that Pico retired in 2011. I paid for one lift trip up and one ride down, and boy, did that ever take me back.

IMG_1473.JPGHaving satisfied that urge, I drove down US 4 to Long Trail Brewing Company. When last I was in Vermont with my family, not only was I not old enough to drink, I had no desire to. Both those premises are no longer true, and I happily indulged myself at the restaurant adjacent to the brewery. Long Trail is at the corner of US 4 and VT 100A, and it was down the latter that I was compelled to point the car after lunch. First, briefly, to the Coolidge State Historic Site. And then, not nearly as briefly, to Coolidge State Park, site of so many of those camping stays I mentioned back at the top. I hiked the trails, and basked in the natural beauty. Once that respite was done, I employed 21st century technology to plan my next move. Stay down here near Rutland, or move further up the state to pre-position myself for Wednesday? The latter course was chosen, and so I made my way to Montpelier. Not much to say about that except that stopping near the state capitol was most helpful in Final Jeopardy! two and a half months later - and that I think Austin Rogers would've enjoyed Positive Pie, and I wish I'd had the chance to recommend it to him.

IMG_1512.JPGWednesday. A lot to do, especially without the safety net of a hotel reservation on the back end. First up was the Mount Mansfield Toll Road, payment of the toll for which was money quite well spent. It got me within striking distance of the highest point in Vermont, and a hike of forty minutes or so put my feet upon that summit. I can't lay claim to being the first to the peak that day - just before reaching the top, I passed someone repainting the Long Trail's blazes. I was joined not long after by a father-son team, and so I got photos of myself atop the summit without having to hold the phone in my hand. After coming back down, it was on to a trio of Waterbury sites: Cold Hollow Cider Mill, Not Cows Ben & Jerry's (just a stop at the store, not a full factory tour), and the Cabot Creamery Annex store. From there, I pointed the Jeep northward on I-89 toward Burlington; I did manage to get a few shots at Gutterson. Further on through to US 2, upward through the Lake Champlain Islands (where the family also camped a few times), all the way up to Alburg...

IMG_1550.JPG...and this is where it got a bit dicey, though I wouldn't have had it any other way. Having looked at Google Maps, I knew I could get basically right up to the International Boundary on this trip. I did so, bringing the Jeep near the intersection of Line Road and Chemin du Bord-de-l'Eau Sud... that is, where they would intersect, if not for a certain demarcation running between them. And I was acutely aware that I shouldn't even risk crossing that demarcation, having discovered earlier in the day that my passport was back home in Pennsylvania, and having noticed cameras conspicuously placed overhead. I made my way back to US 2, at which point I had to take fuel; long drive back down the Northway ahead. As I pulled up to the gas station, I noticed a vehicle with a particular livery - one reminiscent of a livery I'd noticed on Imperial Beach in 2009. The tank was filled, and I prepared to turn right to cross back into New York State - at which point I saw the Border Patrol vehicle move. I initially made that right turn and pulled over, thinking I was about to have a potentially wide-ranging chat with the Federales. But they didn't pursue, I crossed the Richelieu, and the next two hours were without incident...

IMG_1568.JPG...but I was hungry, and I have to admit that my mind might have been overriding my body here. I knew that between Champlain and Albany, there was one stopping point on the Northway that I'd have trouble resisting - Exit 15N, US 9/NY 50, Saratoga Springs. 15N is the exit for the big-box stores, ones I recognized on sight at the bottom of the ramp. Fast food was eaten, and a question was confronted and answered: "It's been eight years. When will you be back... can you afford NOT to detour downtown?" And so I did. I parked on a side street and walked Caroline Street and Broadway. The activity level - to my mind, unusually high for a Wednesday evening - puzzled me until I realized that for the first time in my life, I was in Saratoga Springs "in season" - that is, during the six weeks of the Race Course's season that sustain the city and the area for the other forty-six weeks. Memories were recalled - not only those of prototype in 2005, but of visiting my former roommate and most esteemed colleague J. Raymond in 2009 on the night the King of Pop died, and we had to process that fact.

There were four and a half more hours of driving; the struggle was real, but it was overcome. I managed to guide my vehicle and the attendant cargo safely back to the plot of land I'd purchased eight months previously. The twelve pack from Von Trapp and block of Cabot Vintage Choice cheddar have long since been consumed. The bottle of maple syrup - who knows how long that'll be good for? But merging the best of my past with so much greatness of my present? Priceless...
christmas 2008

A pleasant surprise...


There are still two 2017 vacations that I've yet to write about in this space - Vermont in late August, and Ithaca in late October. But as we stand now in early 2018, I'm just a few weeks removed from a trip much farther afield, to New Zealand. I'll get there eventually; now, I want to recount an unexpectedly satisfying interaction with the government immediately following my return.

The process of planning the New Zealand trip triggered a a few questions relating to pertinent documentation. I first secured a passport in preparation for the Post-Navy Roadtrip; while I did make one overnight excursion across the border, I had originally planned a much longer run through British Columbia and Yukon.* That planning brought me into contact with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which was scheduled to reach full implementation... on June 1, 2009, while the PNR was in progress. "Full implementation of the WHTI," as a practical matter, means "you need a passport, or some other equivalent document, to cross the borders by land - an ordinary driver's license isn't good enough anymore." After obtaining the passport, I altered the course of the PNR to an all-continental United States route - but it still proved useful, as I elected to cross the border to Windsor instead of staying a night in Detroit, a decision which I still consider the right one, despite there being a public sector strike in progress on the Canadian side. As I geared up to head to the land of the Kiwis around Thanksgiving, I started to wonder how far ahead of its expiration date I should renew the passport. The expiration date would have fallen this coming November, and some of the search hits I looked at said nine months would provide an appropriate margin.

That coincided nicely with my return, so I made it a point to be ready to send everything in as soon as I got back. I even completed my DS-82 form, and downloaded it to my laptop, during a layover at the Auckland Airport! Once I got back, it was time to tackle the most challenging portion of the renewal process - the photo. The State Department has very specific requirements for passport photos, and I was having a bit of trouble finding the right background. None of the walls in my house have walls that are painted white... but wait a minute, all the doors are! I set up lighting in front of one, snapped the picture (using the "square" feature of my iPhone's camera for the first time), and headed off to CVS to process the photo. The CVS was chosen not only because they could develop the photo at the right size, but it's right next to the post office here in Royersford. Thus, despite the late start (jet lag still having its effect on me), I managed to get everything into an envelope and sent off before the USPS branch closed at 5:00.

Why did I send the application in person vice simply dropping it into my mailbox, you may ask? Because State highly recommends that a trackable mail option be used. Thus I was able to confirm that my renewal materials had made the short journey to Philadelphia in the promised two days. The real surprise was the speed of the turnaround. Since I didn't need my new passport quickly, particularly having just gotten back from an international vacation far afield, I didn't opt for "expedited service." State estimates that routine service will deliver a new or renewed passport in four to six weeks, an estimate that includes mailing times. I received my new passport on February 17 - just ten days after I sent the old one in. And as for the processing itself, just three business days - the old one was received on the 9th, with the issue date on the new one being the 14th. I wondered on Facebook, "Who came up with that estimate... Montgomery Scott?" I was rather stunned, especially given my overarching world view of governmental operations. And no, the estimate isn't intended to include the time for Passport Services to return my previous documents to me - my old passport, two holes punched through it, arrived in the mail yesterday afternoon.

Kudos to Consular Services for their efficiency! Of course, now that I've got my new secure identity document, I've got no plans to use it in the near future - be that for travel across a national border or an internal one, should Homeland Security ever make good on their ever-present threat to implement REAL ID at our airports.

* Preliminary planning for the PNR had it reaching as far as Fairbanks, Alaska, as a tip of the cap to my family's 1999 road trip to The Last Frontier.
christmas 2008

The NCV, part two...


Upon touchdown at YHZ, I knew exactly where I intended to go (Sydney) and exactly how I intended to get there (TCH 104 and 105). But actually getting there? Easier said than done. No problem getting the rental car for the second half of the trip, but about an hour into the run to the far coast of Cape Breton Island, I ran into massive problems of fatigue - no doubt stemming from the red-eye from Alberta. I had to take a stop for rest in New Glasgow, and had to pop a 5-Hour Energy during one of the numerous stops for photos on the way. But Sydney was reached, more pictures were taken, and more revelry was enjoyed.


Wednesday was, in a sense, "history day." I used the Canada 150 Discovery Pass that I'd obtained for free before I flew north to tour two National Historic Sites of Canada. First, the Fortress of Louisbourg, site of one of the key battles between the British and the French during the Seven Years' War, and a great example of historic preservation and restoration. I then went across to the Alexander Graham Bell NHS. A visit here was something I regretted not having the chance to fit in back in 2016. The Discovery Pass may have gotten me in for free, but paying for a guided presentation on Bell's life, and his impact on Cape Breton, was well worth the few Canadian dollars I paid for it. That night concluded rather peacefully - good beer, good pizza, good #JeopardyLivePanel, and then good sleep.


Thursday was Cabot Trail Day 2017. Suffice to say, it was just about as good as the equivalent day the year prior. The weather patterns, on the other hand, were more than a mixed bag; while the rain held off for most of my journey across the Highlands, the skies totally opened up simultaneously with my arrival to Port Hawkesbury. I stayed in the very same hotel as in 2016; while the quality of the lodging was slightly better than my last visit, it was still about what I expected for the money.


I took a bit of a meandering route to Halifax the next day, heading first for Oak Island. I didn't tour the interpretive centre there, for the visit was driven by an entirely different motivating factor - making my brother jealous. I've mentioned before that he's a big History Channel junkie; when I texted him the photographic evidence that I'd indeed set foot on Oak Island, it evoked the intended reaction. I continued on to Peggy’s Cove for some photos. The lighthouse there is one of the most photographed locations in all of Canada; it wasn’t until after returning to the United States that I learned that inside the lighthouse is an active Canada Post outlet. Had I been aware of that at the time I was there, I might have sent a postcard or two. I then made my way down to the peninsula, checked into the hotel, and grabbed dinner. Having eaten at the Gahan House in Charlottetown nine months prior, I didn’t expect their location on the Halifax waterfront to disappoint, and the beer and the fish and chips met expectations. I can’t recall the second of the two beers I had, but the first was one most appropriately named for the Canada 150 occasion - Sir John A’s Honey Wheat Ale. (Sir John A. Macdonald was the first Prime Minister of Canada, and one of the prime movers behind Confederation, if not the driving force.) I followed that up with a long, fun night at Durty Nelly's...


... perhaps it was too long, because it was rough getting out of bed the next morning, and I had energy to do little else besides just walk around and take in the waterfront. But hey, sometimes that can be more than enough. The evening was punctuated by a walk to the top of Citadel Hill to catch the fireworks. This was a wisely chosen location, as it afforded me outstanding views of the pyrotechnical spectacle, while sparing me the unpleasantness of being amongst the crowds taking in the concert that was held down on the Halifax Commons. I thought about heading to a bar afterward, but settled on taking in the “main” fireworks presentation on Parliament Hill in Ottawa via the CBC.


Sunday, the final full day north of the border, featured visits to two museums. The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 was one of the most poignant things I’ve experienced in some time. I had a great guided tour through many of the displays, but the one truly memorable exhibit was titled “Canada: Day 1.” It was particularly moving for a most unfortunate reason - the juxtaposition against the restrictionist rhetoric from so many prominent politicians in this country and the wrongheaded turn on policy they seek. The stories of Canada welcoming and embracing the world, and especially the refugees who can perhaps benefit the most from resettlement in the West, were incredibly heartwarming - and nearly moved me to tears. After that, it was the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which featured “Collision in the Narrows,” dedicated to the centennial of the Halifax Explosion, which claimed nearly two thousand lives on December 6, 1917. The CBC has an awesome interactive exhibit that captures the scope of the devastation - a scope that, fortunately, was matched by he scope of the response. Among the communities answering that call was the City of Boston; this generosity is recognized annually by Nova Scotia supplying Boston with its official Christmas tree. That tree is a wonderful reminder of the deep and enduring bond between not only two great cities, but our two great countries - a bond that, despite the strains being placed upon it across the NAFTA negotiating table, shall endure for a long time to come.

I did make quick jaunts to the Halifax Citadel and the Public Gardens later that evening, as well as a stop for souvenirs, which included a mason jar-style drinking glass that has been my go-to vessel for imbibing at home ever since. It not only was the most worthwhile thing I purchased on this trip, it's one of the most worthwhile things I’ve purchased in quite some time. There was also, for the second time that weekend, ice cream from Cows. The flight home the next day was without incident. For the third time in a week and a half, I saw the inside of Pearson; I am thinking that later this year, I might make an excursion to check out more of the GTA, somewhere I haven’t visited since a high school band trip in 1996, if my memory has things right. It might also include a visit to Ottawa, a place that comes highly recommended from my Canadian friends, and a city to which I’ve never been. While trips to Canada might not become quite an annual tradition, I will guarantee that going forward, they will be made more frequently than prior to 2016...

christmas 2008

The NCV, part one...

NCV = "Next Canadian Vacation."

It couldn't have been too long after I got back from Canada in September 2016 that the work schedule for this year was released. Five operating crews keep Limerick Generating Station safely generating power, and so our shift rotation repeats on a five-week cycle. One of those five weeks is a training week, but we don't have training in all of those slots. And it so happened that our schedule aligned with my hopes, in that we wouldn't be spending the week of June 26 in the simulator. That meant getting vacation approved for that week would be a breeze, and that I could easily schedule another trip to visit our wonderful neighbours over two weekends. The second of those weekends was of particular importance, as it was the weekend that Canada celebrated the sesquicentennial of its Confederation. That'll be recounted in the second part. Here, I set down the first four days of the trip, where I visit a province I only scratched the surface of eighteen years ago...

I had trouble sleeping on the night of the 22nd, being so damn excited to get this vacation underway. That trouble didn't deter me from making my flight, nor did it detract from the feeling that I had to be on my "A" game upon touchdown at Pearson. For one, I had only a little more than an hour to make my connection to Calgary, an interval during which I would have to satisfy the Canada Border Services Agency. Speaking of which — for two, I remained most acutely aware of my subjection to secondary screening upon my arrival at Stanfield in September 2016. Multiple sighs of relief were exhaled when the process went much more quickly and smoothly on this trip. I did get a bit of shuteye on the flight across the continent; combined with the anticipation of ten days of possibility laying before me, I didn't need much of an energy boost.
I checked out Nose Hill Park before heading first to Fort Calgary, and then downtown. Once there, I took a walkabout, which led me to Olympic Plaza — whereupon I heard what seemed to be dueling chants. I walked eastward wondering what was going on, and my eyes confirmed what my ears had told me — pro-Israel and pro-Palestine groups were holding peaceful demonstrations at opposite ends of the plaza in front of City Hall. At one point, I was approached by a member of the Calgary Police, asking me if I had a dog in the fight. I assured him I did not — and at that, I believe he suggested where I might be safely able to get pictures of these events. After a quick jaunt to the top of Calgary Tower, the rest of the night was relatively uneventful — dinner, Jeopardy!, down to 17th (aka the "Red Mile" when the Flames are successful) for drinks and revelry, and then back to the hotel.
I shared the breakfast table the next day with a group of fellow Americans — including one who had recently been discharged from Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, which gave us a nexus that sustained a few minutes of conversation. They were to my left — and to my right was a copy of the National Post, with a particularly trenchant article by Jonathan Kay on the front cover. Even after I'd finished eating, I took the time to read the whole thing. I then made my way to Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, where I gained a great appreciation of the country's sporting culture. While I was none too pleased at hearing and seeing Sidney Crosby beating Ryan Miller in 2010 on what felt like a continuous loop, I can certainly understand why that would be played up. From there, I drove about an hour west to Canmore, an amazingly beautiful little town just past the entrance to the Rockies. When I booked the accommodations for this trip, I thought Canmore would be a step down from Banff, where it seemed everything was booked... was I ever mistaken on that point. Easily walkable with stunning scenery, I ended up not leaving until early Sunday afternoon, well after I checked out of my hotel. Nor did I do so bad for myself the night before, with a dinner at The Grizzly Paw followed by a couple of hours at Tavern 1883.
Once I finally did leave Canmore, I headed first towards Banff, and then on to Lake Louise. This being the height of tourist season, there were buses running from an overflow lot a few kilometers away, but I was fortunate to get a parking spot adjacent to the lake. I lingered there for more than a little bit, because while the pictures may tell a story, they don't quite do the place justice. From there, it was onto the Icefields Parkway toward Jasper. Eighteen years earlier, my family drove this road on the way to Alaska, taking this particular stretch quickly and under cover of night. I corrected both those missteps on the afternoon of June 25, making many stops along the way to grab pictures. By the time I reached the town of Jasper, it was past eight o'clock — and I still had to gas up, get something to eat, and drive another hour or so to my hotel in Hinton. In addition to accomplishing those objectives, I noted the VIA Rail station, and how the history of the railways is the history of the country, especially in this province.
Though I had a hot tub in my room in Hinton, my late arrival left me able to do little more than sleep, as I had a few hours' drive ahead of me the next day. I reached Edmonton around one in the afternoon, which presented me with a dilemma — how to kill the twelve hours until my flight to Pearson, connecting to Stanfield. A lot of that time was spent simply driving around the city. Somehow, my travels did not bring me to the West Edmonton Mall, the largest shopping centre on the continent. But they did bring me past Commonwealth Stadium, home of the Edmonton Eskimos and a stop on the USNWT's "Settling Accounts Tour 2015"; the Northlands Coliseum, where the Greatest Canadian Ever (so it seems) ended the Islanders' Drive for Five in 1984; and the majestic seat of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, where temperatures nearing thirty degrees made everyone quote comfortable. The next thing in my mind was a search for a reliable connection to Edmonton's public WiFi, which would enable me to remain caught up on America's Favo(u)rite Quiz Show. A trip down to Rundle Park, while lovely in and of itself, proved inadequate. Rerouting to the vicinity of the Kinsmen Sports Centre did the trick, and Jeopardy! in the park was quite the experience. But the events between my departure from there and my arrival at YEG constitute one of, and perhaps THE, signature moment of the trip.

Having taken dinner at a brewery on each of the previous three nights in Alberta, I saw no reason to divert from that course. My search at Walterdale Park identified the nearest such establishment as Situation Brewing, on Eighty-first Avenue. After parking and finding my way to its front door, I noted a particular sign on a nearby office: "Rachel Notley, MLA — Edmonton-Strathcona." A fun offshoot of the trivia fandom is getting up to speed on the politics of places I go. (For example: at this juncture, preparing for my next trip, I likely know more about Jacinda Ardern than the vast majority of Americans.) Thus that name rang particularly in my mind as I sought and obtained beer, food, and company. As I did, I struck up conversation with two lovely ladies — one of whom engaged me more deeply than I ever expected to be on vacation. Among the topics covered: the aforementioned Premier and her future prospects; supply management, Scheer, and Bernier (this being only a month or so after the CPC's leadership election); and the political climate on our side of the border. It was wide ranging and engaging. We agreed on a lot of things, while respectfully disagreeing on some. Perhaps the conversation flowed more easily on my end because of the very fact that I had a "hard out," to use the show business term — I couldn't stick around much past ten o'clock, having a flight to catch. It was a great close to the front end of my trip; another couple of beers inside the Edmonton Airport and a change into the comfy clothes got me ready for the seven actual hours and three time-zone-lost hours of the transfer to Nova Scotia...
christmas 2008

EDIC: the loose ends...

There are a couple of things that I wanted to get after in the previous four posts, but I felt they would have been shoehorned in. Here they are, presented as stand-alone anecdotes.

Not so funny money

I entered Canada with four dollars in coinage, which was sufficient to get me from Stanfield International to downtown Halifax. On my way to dinner on that first night, I first had the chance to withdraw money from an ATM. I noted both a different look and a different feel than the last time I'd visited the country, which was in turn not the same as when I first crossed the northern border. Not only did the Frontier Series change entirely the designs on the reverse of all five banknotes, it changed the very material from which the notes are manufactured, from paper to polymer. I loved the way the money felt in my hand - without any particularly logical justification for it, they felt very twenty-first century, almost futuristic. I loved how they were so easily distinguishable from each other by color, as they have for as long as the Bank of Canada has issued them, and which the Federal Reserve only added a hint of not even a decade and a half ago. I loved how the reverses of the notes depicted more than various historic buildings and scenes in Washington and Philadelphia. And to think, we've only changed the basic design of the notes twice since 1934, when the Bank of Canada started issuing theirs, and the one and the two are essentially unchanged since then? Speaking of the one-dollar and two-dollar bills - that is, money that Canada that doesn't issue anymore - that brings me to the penny. It's now been four years since Canada made the sane and sensible decision (under a Conservative government, no less) to eliminate the penny, denominating all cash transactions to the nearest five cents. Over the years, I've accumulated eight Canadian pennies, primarily as change given here in the States - one of which was minted in 1942 and bears the likeness of George VI. Unfortunately, either Justin Trudeau didn't bring the matter up to the President, or the matter was lost on the latter, particularly as he has lately been committing the extra-statutory, extra-Constitutional, and arguably impeachable offenses of firing Tomahawks into a country against whom we have not declared hostilities, and dismissing those subordinates (read: FBI directors) who are charged with and faithfully executing the same oath he took. Alas, I'm off track - the currency of the United States is out of date, and needs an update, post haste.

Catchy - hold on, Can-con?

My rented Volvo sped east on Trans-Canada 104 past Antigonish and toward the Canso Causeway, and I'd adapted to the adaptive cruise control. With no podcast episodes left to play, I'd tuned the car's radio to 101.5 The Hawk, and a song came on that I'd not heard before, and I've not heard since, but whose chorus has remained imprinted on my mind ever since I flew back across the border. I found myself bobbing my head to it and looking down, I noted the unfamiliar artist and title. One particular lyric resonated on my brain - a line that ended in the words "grade nine." That got my attention, as the United States denotes the progression of school years with ordinal numbers. The very next thought in my mind? "This must only be getting airplay because of those laws that say you have to play X amount of Canadian material." I think what I said about the song back in the sub-heading for this section might speak to that. While I am in principle opposed to that sort of cultural protectionism, I certainly don't deny Canadians, as represented in their Parliament, the right to enact it. Especially since my country decided to yield a major point of leverage on this subject, by withdrawing from the TPP shortly after the new administration absolutely reversed the course of the previous one. Were I one of them, I might have those same concerns about a dominant neighbour exerting an overwhelming influence.

As I started writing this post, I went looking and I found the song: "Yearbook (Which One Were You)" - Sarah Melody. Listening to it again brought me back doubly... not only back to that highway in Nova Scotia last September, but also back to my own senior year of high school - which, as I recently passed my thirty-sixth birthday, was literally half my life ago. I can imagine no better statement of the power of music - particularly deployed at the right time and in the right place.

THIS! IS... an unusual request, and and unusual execution

As I Tweeted out my departure from the Charlottetown Inn and Conference Centre, I was met with a request from my most esteemed colleague Andy. He knew (as did I) that a Patriots preview show would bump the following day's airing of Jeopardy! way early - in fact, an hour earlier than in central Alabama, where usually the game airs first in the United States. While I was then primarily concerned with getting myself first to Gateway Village and then across the bridge and back to Halifax, I thought for certain that my checkout time would match the end of the episode's airing (11:00 Atlantic). I was thus pleased to note upon checking into the Quality Inn near the airport that I would not have to check out until noon the next day - whereupon I asked Andy if I could still be of service. He said I could, and in response to me, told me what he'd need from me for his customary recap blog post.

Both before and after I enjoyed libations in the hotel bar, I asked myself a question along the lines of the one the Stan asked Joanna so long ago - that is, what do you think of someone who just does the bare minimum? Fortunately, Andy and I are not adversaries - well, at least insofar as the matter of America's Favorite Quiz Show. I resolved myself to obtain as much of the program as I could. And when 10:30 rolled around, I was ready. Without the self-imposed distraction of live-Tweeting during the game, I charted every clue, and as soon as the game was done, I emailed a full recap of the game to Andy, with one exception - the correct Final Jeopardy! response. At almost the same moment he found it, I realized I had not included it and amended my recap - as I was driving down Highway 102 toward Halifax.

Writing about this thirty-eight weeks after the fact, it seems clear to me that the exceptional performance I put up in the September 16 game, still the best of the season to date in regular play, was purely a function of getting good categories, as opposed to being locked in. Apart from the internal fist-pumping at my personal performance, I took particular pride in seeing my name appended to the stats on that game.

Once again, what next?

Just about a month ago, I booked the flights and accommodations for the Next Canadian Vacation. In less than three weeks I fly to Calgary for a few days in Alberta, with a stretch through Banff and Jasper much as my family took back in 1999. That's followed by a red-eye to Halifax, setting up a Canada Day weekend back in the Maritimes. And these plans most definitely include time on Cape Breton; while The Washington Post may have brought its credibility into question with the PropOrNot and Burlington Electric fiascoes, its recent article on CBI renewed my love of that wonderful place. The fight for the Republic proceeds apace - but having a wonderfully governed constitutional monarchy within easy reach is a thought that provides much solace.
christmas 2008

EDIC, part four...

Cause for pause.Enjoyed this step back in time.BOO HISS!

Sitting in the hotel room in Charlottetown on Wednesday night, I knew where I'd be heading the following day only so far as the junction of Highways 2 and 16 in New Brunswick. The initially formulated plan entailed driving down along the shore of the Bay of Fundy toward Yarmouth. But that would mean a lot more driving than I cared to do. I considered heading into New Brunswick, but Moncton didn't seem an appealing destination. As I debated between these two less than stellar options, a third entered my head... why not just go straight back to Halifax? I didn't see quite as much of the city as I'd wanted during the first go-around, so having some of Thursday and all of Friday would help in making up for that.

Easier said than done. That middle weekend of September encompassed both the start of the Atlantic Film Festival and Cutlass Fury, a large anti-submarine warfare exercise off the coast. I had a room at the Four Points for Friday night, but extending that reservation back a day? No can do, nor were there any rooms available anywhere else in Halifax or Dartmouth. I was wondering whether I'd end up out in Truro, about sixty miles to the north. Fortunately, I didn't need to settle that far out; the Quality Inn near the airport had a room, which I jumped at.

After getting a bit of a late start out of Charlottetown, it was about an hour to the Confederation Bridge, the fixed link connecting Prince Edward Island to the mainland. I spent about an hour at Gateway Village, the shopping complex on the PEI side just prior to the toll booths. Besides watching a video on the Bridge's construction, I grabbed a T-shirt and lunch - and also dessert, since Cows had a shop in the centre. After that, it was over the bridge for a quick stop in New Brunswick so I could claim that I've been to the province, taking my total to seven plus the Yukon. I took the TCH back down - initially to Dartmouth, so that I could snap some pictures of Halifax from across the harbour. I rolled the Volvo down to the southern tip of the city, to Point Pleasant Park, where I watched a cruise ship depart, paid respects to my brethren north of the border, and just generally relaxed and reflected. I had dinner at HFX Sports, which had one of the more insane setups of screens that I've ever seen in my lifetime. The server mentioned specials on both beer and wings. I happily took the latter, but the beer on offer was Budweiser, I believe. I politely demurred, as opposed to laying down my true opinion: "I don't drink that swill in my own country, so I'm certainly not going to drink it in yours" - notwithstanding the fact that I imbibed the Canadian equivalent six nights earlier.

I drove out of downtown to check into my room, wondering whether I'd want to make a trip back in afterward. That was rendered unnecessary by the existence of a bar in the Quality Inn. After Jeopardy!, of course, I headed down for a drink or several. Nothing of note occurred until I was noticed tapping on my phone by the couple seated next to me, after which a conversation was struck up. It turns out they live in New Jersey - and in the good half to boot (that is, the northern half, populated primarily by Giants and Jets fans vice Eagles supporters). He was in Nova Scotia on business, and had also booked there the night before, encountering the same difficulties in finding accommodation as I had. He was originally from Jamaica, and she from Ireland; this took the conversation in a nice direction, as my family is mainly of Irish extraction on both sides (my mother's maiden name is Monahan). I stated my last name, and I think she mentioned what part of the Emerald Isle that corresponded to. That being said, I'm not sure I could recall it the next morning - I certainly am unable to nearly six months later! The ethanol - in my case, Alexander Keith's IPA - kept the conversation flowing nicely for over an hour, after which I retired to my room to catch the end of the Bills and Jets.

Before checking out the following morning, I watched Jeopardy! again, that day's game having been bumped to mid-morning by WBZ's airing of a Patriots "all access" show. (More on that experience in a "mop-up" post to follow.) I spent the early part of Friday afternoon lazily walking up and down the waterfront. Given the intervening events, I now regret not having visited the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. What I don't regret was spending the five dollars to tour HMCS Sackville, Canada's Naval Memorial, a World War II-era corvette restored to its 1940's configuration. Just as I thought it necessary to visit USS Pampanito when I was in San Francisco many years ago, I felt it right and proper to take a step back in time and pay respect to the brave Canadians who gave their lives in defence of freedom (and did so for much longer than the United States was involved in those wars). Shortly after I boarded, I and another American couple were offered to be toured around the ship by a gentleman who'd himself served in the Royal Canadian Navy decades ago, which added wonderful additional context. Among Sackville's missions was locating and taking out submarines; at the mention of this, I could not help but disclose the particular branch of my Naval service.

I had not planned to eat anything in the middle of that Friday afternoon, but that plan was upended when I noticed a passerby eating from a paper bowl - and particularly a logo on said bowl. What's that, you say? Cows has a retail operation on the Halifax waterfront? You know what that means - that's right, YET MOAR ICE CREAM! Even so, when it came time for dinner, I had more than enough space for both it and the attendant drinks. The aforementioned Alexander Keith's wanted to charge me twenty-six Canadian dollars to look around their brewery. Having toured the facilities of both Samuel Adams and Harpoon in Boston nearly a decade ago, I saw no need to spend that money. But the Red Stag offering many of their brews basically right from the source plus food, within easy walking distance of the Four Points? Sign me up. During this last dinner in Canada, I made it a point to fill my glass with a different beer each time; they all complemented my burger and fries quite nicely.

Back in the room, I noticed my wallet was utterly devoid of paper and metal currency. I resolved to withdraw sixty dollars, and whatever I didn't spend on drinks that night, less a dollar to get back to the airport and a few coins as souvenirs, would be donated to a homeless person. After briefly contemplating how to play Argyle Street on this final night of the trip, I ultimately decided to follow Lefler's 36th Law - "you gotta go with what works," and so it was back to Durty Nelly's. It was once again a great time, and I left with a smile on my face and sorrow at what was to come the next day.

First and foremost, what was to come the next day was a bleep-ton of alarms, on par with those I set to awaken myself for a day shift of work. Thankfully, I only needed the first of them. I had set myself up to pack quickly, but a quandary presented itself after I checked out of the Four Points... where's the nearest homeless person? I had trouble finding one, wondering if the constabulary had swept the city clear ahead of the film festival. That ended up not being so; I did find such a disadvantaged person, and did give him a couple of bucks.

The transit to the airport was without incident, in contrast to my transit through CATSA's checkpoint; as it was on my way into Canada, my laptop was checked on my way out of it. Once I'd cleared that and pre-cleared United States Customs, I set my sights on lunch in the airport terminal. I'd wanted it to be Tim Hortons to provide a proper bookend to the trip; but they were closed, so I made my way across the waiting area, where I had one last burger and a couple more Keith's IPAs. They were most necessary, because Flight 4089 sat for an hour on the tarmac at YHZ due to an extended "issue with the company," which led us to have to return to the gate to take on additional fuel. But eventually the plane took off, and the flight was trouble-free. Two items of note from the drive home from PHL. For one, I had not changed the units of my GPS back to miles, so I drove down Interstate 95 and up Interstate 476 trying to reconcile the speed limit signs against what the GPS was showing me. And for two, after a week of driving a car that slowed down when it sensed a vehicle in front of it, I had to remind myself, "the Compass DOES NOT have adaptive cruise control!"

All in all, those last three days were just as good as the five before them - a heck of a capstone to a heck of a trip. They do, however, leave me with one big question. I plan on taking off from work the last week of June... so which part of the country will I visit to celebrate Canada 150?
christmas 2008

EDIC, part three...

No need for me to stop in.Where 'life -' um, 'peace, order, and good government' - first took hold...Relaxing and peaceful - and no, I didn't take a dip.

With so much time and so little to do in Port Hawkesbury on Monday night, I had plenty of time to work out the exact time I'd need to depart in order to reach the ferry terminal in Caribou, Nova Scotia, to catch an 11:30 departure for Prince Edward Island. The truly amazing thing was that not only did I manage to roll the Volvo out of the parking lot within that window (about 9:40), I had calculated correctly and reached Caribou with just the right amount of spare time. There was a feeling of familiarity upon my arrival; I was reminded of the numerous times I rolled onto a Cross Sound Ferry at both New London and Orient Point. The M/V Confederation was well-appointed and nicely did the job of ferrying myself and the car across the Northumberland Strait, with lunch to boot. I didn't get dessert on the ship, but I got a suggestion for dessert that would not only serve me well on the afternoon, it would produce repercussions on the trajectory of my weight for the remainder of the trip.

Following docking and rolling off at Wood Islands, it was a lovely, picturesque drive of just under an hour to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island's capital and the birthplace of Canadian Confederation, though PEI didn't join the Dominion until seven years after its founding. I'd arrived well before check-in time at the Charlottetown Inn and Conference Centre (then the Best Western), so I parked downtown and walked about a bit. As I walked up Queen Street, I noted, but did not enter, a store specifically and entirely devoted to Anne of Green Gables. (Noting this has served me well since, as the links between that title, L. M. Montgomery, and PEI have nabbed me a few Jeopardy! clues since.) That shop was a footnote on my way to the corner of Queen and Grafton, whereupon I found... Cows. On the ferry ride over, I noted a large placard with a reprint of a magazine's ice cream reviews, which proclaimed Cows the best ice cream anywhere on our little pale blue dot. When I came upon the store, there was a line out the door, which I thought was comprised mainly of passengers from the multiple cruise ships docked in the harbour. Even still, that line heightened my anticipation, reminding me of how customers lined up for the fare of the Soup Nazi on that iconic Seinfeld episode. And the ice cream most certainly did not disappoint. My tastes in this realm run along the lines of those of Deanna Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation - that is, chocolate, and plenty of it. The dairy goodness greatness didn't literally bring me to my knees, but it was damned good nonetheless - to the point where I purchased it twice more before flying back to the United States, and I draw a straight line from those three consumptions to the fact that I only lost four-tenths of a pound over the vacation, despite more physical activity than I normally average.

I checked in and headed out; what the Inn and Conference Centre lacked in views from my room (I was just off the lobby, and so the window overlooked the pool) was more than made up for by the short distance to town, enabling me to explore without employing the car. My travels took me down to the waterfront, past Province House (the closest analogue to our Independence Hall), and eventually around to The Gahan House, at which I enjoyed both a couple of the establishment's own fine brews and a tasty club sandwich. That meal, coming at just about the halfway point of the trip, marked another milestone - it was the first time that I was presented with a check and didn't instinctively think I was being overcharged, having finally internalized the exchange rate. Later that night, I headed back out, with no real conception of what might be available to do on a Tuesday night in Charlottetown. I saw a line, thinking it was for entry into a bar, so I got into it. It turned out that the line was for a concert at Fishbones, one for which tickets had mostly been pre-sold. After seeing many people who possessed those tickets be given priority for entry, I decided it wasn't worth my while to remain in line any longer, so I headed back to the room.

The next morning, I slowed the pace down and headed to one of the beaches on the island's northern shore. I took the opportunity to change into my sandals as I walked the shoreline - and even last week, five months after the trip, I noticed grains of the distinctive red sands of PEI at the bottom of my backpack. I then drove over to Summerside, the second largest city in PEI. After a little bit of time taking in the views there, it was back to the capital, where I was forced to face down a necessary but expected hurdle. I packed six days worth of clothes for an eight day trip... that's right, it was time for laundry! Fortunately, this fell at the perfect time; rain fell just as I'd thrown the clothes into the washer, so I wasn't cooped up in the laundromat while it was nice out. I had a pleasant conversation with the attendant, and smiled as I stuck a pin into a map roughly approximating the northwest suburbs of the City of Brotherly Love. Dinner on Wednesday night was at Prince Edward Island Brewing Company. As I enjoyed more delicious beer, burger, and fries, I had the thought that this will color future visits to Five Guys - when I see where the potatoes are from, I'm inclined to think, "they're not from Prince Edward Island." There must be something in those soils that gives their produce a distinctively good taste.

The weather didn't improve much that night, so I packed it in and made some preparations for the remainder of the trip. In particular, I still had a major decision to make - and then once I made it, I found myself scrambling to execute it. But I'll keep that in reserve to open part four...