Chinatown Bus

Chinatown Bus

I first heard of the Chinatown bus years ago I was intrigued, but had no idea how to find out more about it. The name conjured images of people traveling with caged chickens and goats. I knew that wasn’t true, but the price– under $100– was certainly attractive.

In December I saw this poster in the window of a Chinese restaurant on Buford Highway in Atlanta. It lists the website and phone numbers and the price– just $60 from New York to Atlanta or from Atlanta to New York– and the name, I now realize, is not Chinatown bus, but W&G Bus.

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Pet Detective

Pet Detective

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Views from Little Switzerland

2014-09, Blue Ridge Parkway 054, Crop

When I was a child, my mother took the family for a drive on the mountain roads near our then home in Asheville, North Carolina. When we passed a ramshackle inn perched on the edge of an escarpment, I instantly fell in love with it.

Alpine Inn, Crop

I’ve always wanted to stay there, but never managed, even though I’ve been in the vicinity hundreds of times. I think the reason was mostly because I didn’t remember the inn’s name, but perhaps also I wanted to wait and savor the moment when I finally visited.

Last week I cruised the length of the 450-mile-long Blue Ridge Parkway, which passes through Little Switzerland. In this age of the internet it was easy to find an image of the inn I remembered and determine its name.

I timed my trip to put me in Little Switzerland at about 4:30 pm, and arrived as planned. Traffic was light on the Parkway (it will be bumper-to-bumper a month from now, when the leaves have changed color), so I expected there to be a room available. I wasn’t disappointed. I got a room– musty-smelling, but clean– for only $60.

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My Vicarious New Car Buyer’s Experience: III: Enjoying Heather’s Car— Or, By the Time We Got to Woodstock…

My Vicarious New Car Buyer’s Experience: III: Enjoying Heather’s Car— Or, By the Time We Got to Woodstock…

On Saturday, Heather dropped the dime. Frustrated by game-playing by car dealers, anxious about getting in over her head, and experiencing hybrid anxiety every time she thought of going cheaper and getting a gas-powered car, she came to her decision and left with a 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid with a lustrous pearl white finish.

Hybrid Sign Crop

We’ve been getting 47 mpg on the highway and a little better than 50 mpg in town. This is a car that actually exceeds its advertised gas mileage!

The Accord is beautiful, has plenty of torque, and is more complicated than an F-15 Strike Eagle. It’s at least as much mobile computer as automobile. The owner’s manual is hundreds of pages long and it’ll be months before we figure everything out.

We’re getting used to the keyless entry and push-button start. We’re getting hooked on the right lane view and backup cameras. We’re enjoying playing music and audiobooks and making hands-free phone calls over Bluetooth. And best of all, we’re enjoying the high gas mileage.

2014-04-19, Heather's New 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid  003

Heather’s Accord on the lot at the Honda dealer, just before we drove it home.

We slept late on Sunday (because we were wiped out from a week of car shopping) and drove up the freeway to Woodstock, New York. Were there hippies there still, we wondered?

When we hit the town center, our questions were answered. Forty or more mostly older men sat in a circle, banging on drums.

2014-04-20, By the Tme We Got to Woodstock, It Was Two Thousand Fourteen  022

There were dancing groupies:

2014-04-20, By the Tme We Got to Woodstock, It Was Two Thousand Fourteen  017, Crop

There was even a bicycle dude.

Bicycle Dude

“Score!” Heather said.

Woodstock is a picturesque little village in the Catskills, about 100 miles from New York City. Today it looks like this:

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Too Much Stuff

Too Much Stuff

I was in a warehouse-sized liquor store when it hit me. There was just too much product from which to choose.

Consider just one type of liquor: vodka. Now consider the various infusions and flavors of vodka that are being marketed: vanilla, sorbet light lemon, mango, passion fruit, pomegranate, cinnamon-sugar, wild honey, marshmallow, iced cake, caramel, whipped cream, amaretto, root beer, blueberry, cherry, citrus, coconut, cranberry, expresso, grape, green apple, orange, peach, pear, pineapple, raspberry, vanilla—oh, wait, I already said vanilla—cherry lime, watermelon, strawberry acai, tropical fruit, peach bellini—and that’s just the Smirnoff varieties! There were at least fifty other brands, many with their own selection of flavors—and then there are vodkas made with grain, vodkas made with potatoes, vodkas that are triple distilled, vodkas with hops, double strength vodkas.  A body is lucky to get out of the store with a bottle plain old vodka.

The infusion fad, which began with vodka, has now reached brown liquors. There are flavored rums, whiskeys, and scotches, each in many varieties as well as flavors. Peppermint-flavored rye whiskey or single-malt Orkney scotch? It’s just a matter of time.

It’s not quite as bad at the grocery store, but still at least twice I’ve come home with peanut butter with some sort of horrid honey mixed in.

Now, I don’t mind much if I wind up with crunchy when I wanted smooth, but the honey concoction is vile—and there are other potential traps as well—”natural,” low salt, low fat… I consider myself lucky when I wind up with plain old creamy peanut butter.

Now choice is well and good, but I think some concession should be made to help shoppers find the original product. If that were to happen we wouldn’t go home with whole wheat Triscuits, veggie-flavored Triscuits, sea salt Triscuits, Bloody Mary Triscuits. Sometimes we just want a plain old Triscuit.

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