Summer Vacation Part One: Fun and Family

We got started about an hour later than we wanted on Friday the 20th, hitting a bunch of traffic on 15 until we got to Maryland, then not so much for a while, then a bunch leading into Hershey. As I mentioned before, I won Police tix and VIP passes. We parked at Hersheypark Stadium, picked up the passes, and headed in. Hersheypark Stadium is laid out like an old football stadium with no bleachers in the end zones, and there was a small wood building next to stage right with a deck that had been decorated with a Moroccan theme. The food was Mediterranean: roasted red pepper hummus, grilled lamb and chicken kebabs, couscous and stuffed pastries. The sodas were gratis, but the beer and wine wasn’t, but it was pretty sweet. We even got to meet two members of the band (including Sting’s son), then watched them play from the deck. The show was just great: hit after hit, no beer/bathroom songs, and Jill didn’t mind the floor seats since they were in the eleventh row. Stewart Copeland had a couple different takes on percussion, particularly playing a mix of oddly shaped cymbals and tympani during “Wrapped Around Your Finger”. The big crowd pleasers were “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” and “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”, done to perfection. We tried to leave after “So Lonely”, but getting out of the parking lot was so slow the band was able to leave before us. I drove another couple hours to Clifton, NJ, just so the next day’s drive wouldn’t be as daunting. We stayed in a nice Holiday Inn right off 78.

Saturday we got going fairly early, ate some MickeyD’s on the way (the only time I eat there is breakfasts on the road), and soon were in New York. We had one misdirection, but soon were at my cousin Kevin’s house near Saratoga Springs. He and his wife Sharon have a nice house in a new subdivision, and we shared sandwiches on their deck while catching up. We were soon on our way north again, getting to the southernmost of the three ferries crossing Lake Champlain a little after 4.

Us on ferry
Us on the ferry, more here

Once in Vermont, we swung by the Magic Hat brewery so Jill could get a shirt and I could fill up the growler, then went north of Burlington to Jill’s cousin George’s house. He had nicely offered to both put us up for the night and drop us off at the Vermont Brewer’s Festival. We were an hour late for the festival, but thanks to purchasing tix on the web, did not have to wait in line with the hoi polloi. The festival was in a smaller space than the Old Dominion one, but there were at least as many people, plus dogs. Our first stop was Pennichuck Brewing for an Engine No. 5 for Jill and a 2-6-0 Mogul for me, both good, but we felt food was needed. The sign at Vermont Smoke & Cure had a quote from the New York Times that it had “possibly the finest bacon on the planet”, so I had to try their bacon slab sandwich while Jill had a hot sausage. Very tasty, especially paired with beer. Standout beers for me included the 100 Barrel Series Encore from Harpoon, the Saranac Pomegranate Wheat, and the Vindicator Weizenbock from Trout River. We also got a pulled pork sandwich for Jill and fried calamari for me from Huggie’s Island Grill.

We caught a cab to the University of Vermont, where I’d found out the Duhks were playing as part of their Film and Music on a Summer Night series. They were good, but it’d been a long day, and we called George to come pick us up before the mosquitoes attacked in force. We stopped for more alcohol, I got the Harpoon Raspberry Hefewizen since I’d wanted to try another brewery’s version that they’d run out of. Jill got wine and George is a Coors fan. Once back at his house, he and his wife Katherine were about to watch the movie Waiting…, so we joined them. That was a good idea, as the movie is like taking the restaurant bits from Office Space and making Kevin Smith write the rest of the script. The humor can be very crass, but it’s hilarious. I started reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (book 6), while Jill started on the first one before bed.

Sunday morning we left and met up with George’s mother Kelly and her husband John in Waterbury. We had breakfast at Maxi’s where I was pleased to have real maple syrup for my pancakes. We got on the road, stopping in Springfield, where they’d had the Simpsons movie premiere the day before. They’d taken down most of the decorations, but still had a giant hand holding a donut with Matt Groening’s signature on it. I took pictures with my cell phone (my camera went AWOL until we got home), but lost those pictures because it did a factory reset when I recharged it the next day. We swung through Northampton because Jill needed a baby gift (and I got some used CDs at Dynamite Records), then arrived in Easthampton where Jill’s old roommates Jude and Jen had just had a baby girl, and our friends Chris and Jess (plus their daughter Veronica) met us there. We visited for a while, but we had scheduled dinner with Jill’s dad Bob and his wife Sue in Connecticut, and we had to pick up Jill’s sister Robin on the way. We got to the Olive Garden and ordered – I had the Grilled Steak Caprese and Jill had the Stuffed Chicken Marsala. It was nice to catch up, but we made an early night of it (stopping by Target on the way back to pick up Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows). We caught up some with Jill’s mom Sue and her husband Dave before crashing.

Monday Sue made us eggs and bacon (swearing by her George Foreman grill) before Jill and her sister Melissa went off for a spa day. The rest of us helped Melissa’s husband Dominic watch their three kids (including making a videotape that should be destroyed) and Jill’s cousin’s daughter before they got back, then I took a break to finish Half-Blood Prince. We took some family pictures, then had cakes to celebrate Jill and Melissa’s birthdays before Melissa, Dominic, Robin, Jill and I went out to dinner at Opa-Opa. I was pleased that they brew their own beer, and had a sampler of several (they were unfortunately out of the watermelon wheat), and a big piece of prime rib (Jill had steak). Later we dropped Robin off before having a drink and a couple games of pool at Elizur’s. I finally started Deathly Hallows before bed.

Early on Tuesday Melissa and Dominic took their family to Cape Cod, so we went out with Sue and her mom (after more eggs and bacon). We first stopped at the Book Bear in West Brookfield, which proved to be very eclectic: D&D modules, comics, movie magazines and books merged together in the sci fi section. We stopped at a Trader Joe’s and Atkins to pick up food for Falcon Ridge, as well as corn at a roadside stand in Hadley. Sue started dinner while we returned to reading, Jill moving on to book two while I finished Deathly Hallows (fabulous ending, great wrap up to the series). We had burgers and dogs hot off the grill for dinner, very tasty. More reading late at night, I moved on to the new Neil Gaiman book .

Wednesday we had more eggs for breakfast (can’t go wrong), then headed over to Southampton to hit a couple more bookstores as I was running out of reading material (I hadn’t expected to have as much reading time). We hit Heritage Books and Sage Books, and I picked up a couple paperbacks, Jill found a pile of hardcovers she needed. We got back, packed, and hit the liquor store and the grocery store on the way out of town, prepared for living in the wild for the rest of the week.


No vacation post tonight – I got stung 8 times by wasps while walking Illa in the woods, so I’m going to bed early.

I will offer a bonus shot of my post FRFF scruffiness:


BBC America will start showing Dr. Who (man, I’m loving the new season) spinoff Torchwood September 8. To whet your appetite, here’s an interview with series star John Barrowman.

FYI, Steven Moffat, author of legendary spoof “Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death” (as well as “The Girl in the Fireplace” and “The Doctor Dances”), will have his show Jekyll on BBC America on the same night.

Drawing blind

If you’ve ever played Cranium, you know there’s a part where you have to draw without looking. Here’s an interesting look at major comic strip artists asked to draw their characters normally, then blindfolded, in 1947.

A Harry weekend

The weekend started off in a crappy manner – I had a doctor’s appointment in the morning (which they kept me waiting for an hour for), then got a stomach ache in the afternoon, and wasn’t up for much Friday evening, read some comics, no dinner, and went to bed somewhat early. Saturday I was feeling better, finally finished installing the icemaker. Still not getting enough pressure for the filter, so I called a plumber, pleasantly surprised they’d come out on a Sunday for no extra charge. The rest of the afternoon I finished Strangers In Paradise (moving ending to the series), heated some frozen Asian food from TJ’s for dinner, then Jill went to bed not long after while I stayed up watching “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” – I never realized David Tennant (the current Doctor) has a decent sized role in it (mostly because I didn’t know him before he was the Doctor).

Sunday I got up and cleaned the kitchen, finishing just as the plumbers arrived. They were good, redoing the line to the icemaker, and also pointing out while the pipes had been replaced with copper, the pressure reducing valve was plastic and sometimes gave no warning before failing. They replaced it with a brass one. The icemaker is making ice now, but it takes 24 hours to flush the system. After they left, I took Illa on a long walk, then read the paper and more comics. Jill got back from studying for exams, and we had for dinner before going off to see “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”. My friend Lykaon was not a fan, but he also has not read the books. We saw it in IMAX, and really enjoyed it – you may not get as much at of it if you haven’t read the books, but if you liked the others you should like this. No popcorn at the theater – we had some when we got home, though. I’m going to reread “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” next weekend before diving into “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”