Sunday, May 30, 2010

Peaceful Holiday Weekend

It sounds like sour grapes, but there is something to be said about not having a fancy beach house to go to over a long summer weekend. The city is really so peaceful with many of its residents gone.

I don't think a parking space on my block goes unclaimed ever -- typically the new car is waiting as the old car maneuvers its way out. I noticed coming back from dinner tonight that there were three empty spaces right around my building.

To get to this restaurant tonight, I take a short cut through a parking garage and it held about half the cars it normally does. When I crossed the street to the restaurant, always in the middle of the block, I usually have to time my crossing, but tonight I didn't even have to wait -- that's how light traffic was. It's quieter and people are calmer and it's just a nice break from the usual hub-bubs

Friday, May 28, 2010

What are you reading this weekend?

Vanity Fair has a little section called "Nightstand Reading" where celebrities say what book they're reading -- and sometimes their picks make me laugh because they are typically the most arcane, serious, scholarly books you could imagine. I simply don't believe anyone would read these books.

Me, I just started The Lost City of Z, a true story, about a Victorian explorer in the Amazon looking for a lost civilization. I believe it was a best seller a year or two ago. It's still #520 on Amazon's list. (*That's Amazon, the bookseller, not Amazon, the river.)

So far, so good. The explorer's name is Percy Fawcett and at one time that was a household name. He was supposedly the last of the great individual explorers. I've just read 25 or so pages to establish the background.

What are you reading?

My Soda'd Past

One night this week, flipping around the channels, I saw a scene from a soda fountain from the 1950s, and the server picked up a stainless steel holder and then whacked it over the top of these upside down paper cones so that the holder now had one paper cone.


I had totally forgotten about those cones, but I remember drinking out of them. Actually they were handy -- the soda fountain could throw away the paper cup and they didn't have to wash the stainless steel holder. Above is the best picture I could find of them. That got me thinking about different soda experiences.

For a while in the late 50s, early 60s, there was a soda machine that opened like a chest. The bottles were lined up in rows with a metal collar around the neck of the bottle. You'd pick your soda from the row, and ease the bottle along to the opening, which, of course, would open only after you paid.

The best thing I can equate this to is when you rent a cart at the airport and you ease one cart out to the end and the collar releases the one cart.

But the best part of this was the soda bottles were soaking in water so you'd be all hot on a summer day, get your cold soda and it would come out dripping in cold water. This is a picture of one of them, and I can still feel that cool water because your hand would get wet as well easing the bottle down the little line to the opening.

Then when looking for pictures, I came across this Hires barrel, which instantly rang a bell with me. I find the brain so amazing (I know: DUH) But my brain has not contemplated that root beer barrel for decades, literally, and then in a microsecond there is recognition.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Precision Ordering

For our monthly lunch, Barbara and I thought we would switch out from pastrami and go back to another of our usual haunts -- a NY chain called Jackson Hole, known for its hamburgers. But we don't like the hamburgers because they are too big, too thick so we always order scrambled eggs.

But, not just any eggs. I like mine soft. She likes her bacon "crispy" and her French fries "well done." I used to make fun of her until I had crispy bacon envy so I add that to my order too.

It's a weird inverse proportion deal in NY that you can make the most precise order and it will be respected. Scrambled soft, well-done fries, crispy bacon. I heard someone ordering something unusual "on the side" and later mentioned it to the waiter -- this was in a Greek coffee shop/diner -- and he laughed and said when people order things "on the side," he asks them if they want it on the right or the left side. Customer is king typically in these places.

Try ordering scrambled eggs soft in the hinterlands and you'll get a deer stuck in headlights look. Try personalizing your order and you're likely to get a "no can do" from the server -- "that's the way it's made" or "the cooks won't do that" or "no substitutions" -- go to a bagel place in NY and order a "well done poppy with lots of seeds" and the guy will go rooting through the poppy bagel wire basket and then hold up the perfect bagel for your inspection.

I don't care how many seeds are on my poppy bagel, but evidently other people do, as I've heard that order a lot -- same with "well done sesame." I guess we want our moneys-worth. I've seen people point to the precise cupcake they want when they all look essentially the same to me -- "No, not that one, THAT one..."

In a city that moves at fast speeds, there's always time, it seems, to have your food, your bagel, your coffee exactly the way you want it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What have you never done?

In response to regulation of ATM fees, here comes a news item from today:

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) has never used an ATM. But that doesn't mean he can't learn how!

"I could learn how to do it just like I've . . . I swipe to get my own gas, buy groceries," Nelson said, according to the Omaha World-Herald. "I know about the holograms."

By "holograms," Nelson clarified that he meant the bar codes on products read by automatic scanners in the checkout lanes at stores such as Lowe's and Menard's.Nelson's office did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

It's hard to believe you could have never used one -- like the girl I wrote out a week or so ago who'd never eaten a hamburger.

I started thinking if there's something that everyone's done, that I haven't. So here are five things I've never done:

I've never jumped out of an airplane.
I've never eaten brains.
I've never been to South America.

Hmmm... this is tough... I keep thinking of things and then saying, "no, you've done that..."

I've never been arrested.
I've never swum with dolphins.

However, I have walked with a dolphin. I was on this beach in North Carolina and there was a dolphin about 20 feet offshore and as I walked down the beach, he walked with me, really the way a dog might. I'd stop and the dolphin would stop. It was really something. I had regular clothes on -- I don't know if I would have gotten in the water with the dolphin if I had been wearing a swim suit.

Ok, so what have you never done? Has anyone never used an ATM?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Home Again

I did make an early departure from my Econolodge -- left at 6:45 and did well until entering NJ and it was just such traffic -- had to wait about 30 minutes in a line for gas on the Jersey Turnpike. It was "full-service" pumps and each guy would be handling four pumps at a time so it was slow going.

As I was making my way up my steps, this woman stops me, had never seen her before and she asks me why I'm not wearing one of my pretty dresses. She acts like she knows me. Then she says, "And you always wear the matching socks."

I do not want to ever see the woman she has confused me with.

She then says she wants to ask me something and says, "Do you think Oberlin is on par with Columbia?" and I thought about it and said no, and she was satisfied with that answer.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

OMG: What a dump!

I broke my own rule about staying in crummy hotels. I hadn't made a reservation until yesterday, and I have to say a lot of places were fully booked. So I was spending too much time and said the heck with it and just picked this Econolodge in Washington, PA.

This is how bad it is: there is no commercial sign. The sign is one of those yellow boards where you put letters on them and tow it behind your car. It's the kind of sign you'd see that says CARWASH TODAY or something. You can see the sign smack dab in the middle of the top picture.

The guy behind the counter didn't really speak English. I asked him if there were any cases of bed bugs and he didn't know what the word meant (which I took as a good sign) and I pantomined it and he got what I was saying and said "Oh noooooo, noooo."

This is the kind of place where you'd put your 6-man traveling drywall crew or something. On the bright side, I am just steps from my car! [see photo -- now's that's close!] That's also the only window in the room.

Two guys were hanging out next door, drinking beer. Both had fully tattooed arms and cut off sleeve T-shirts. One guy's shirt said "My Momma Thinks I'm Special."

The room is remarkably clean -- honestly. Yes, the carpet is stained and there are no doubt alien life forms on the bedspreads, but the bathroom is as clean as any hotel. The towels are clean and smell good. There's a microwave and a refrigerator, an old, but working TV with remote control and HBO. The air conditioner is noisy but works well. Even too well... I put it on high and I'm about to turn it down. And there's two little bottles of shampoo.

Continuing on the bright side, there's a Taco Bell right across the street, and I would definitely recommend #8 value meal which is 3 tacos (hard or soft, and I recommend soft) washed down with their icy Cherry Limeade. Quite a refreshing combination.

I am about 30 miles into Pennsylvania from the Ohio border, heading East, of course -- which brings me to another positive -- I won't be tempted to linger in this room.

I was also thinking that I am glad I'm not a girly girl who would be too squeamish to stay here. OK, it pushed my boundaries a bit and I held my breath for a second when I pushed open the door not knowing how bad it would be, but for tonight, this is Home Sweet Home.

Friday, May 14, 2010

My Best Friend's Birthday

How lucky am I to have had Mary as a best friend lo these many years -- since I was 16 and she was 18. (I have to point out that no matter how old I get, she will always be older!)
I can't imagine the course of my life, who or where I'd be, without her so Happy Birthday, Mary, and many happy returns of the day.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Forgot to Mention: The Lincoln Highway

A few months back, with a bad case of insomnia, I was flipping around the channels around 3 am and landed on some obscure channel and a documentary about The Lincoln Highway. I had never heard of it before, but it was the first road that ran coast to coast -- from New York City to San Francisco. It was first opened in 1913, and you can imagine the commerce it brought to towns and cities along its route.

It was fascinating -- I'd never heard of it -- and there are whole groups of Lincoln Highway clubs that try to travel the whole route, or what's left of it since some parts no longer exist.

As I was driving to Shanksville the other day, I found myself on the actual Lincoln Highway. It was exciting and if (or I should say when)I make this trip again, there's another whole section of the Lincoln Highway which I pass. Might be fun to do that. On the short part of it I was on, there are Lincoln Highway markers every 1/4 mile or so.

By the way, the Lincoln Highway was the first national tribute to Abraham Lincoln, even pre-dating the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.

If you want to know more, check out the website of the Lincoln Highway Association. They even have an annual convention!

The documentary ended in New York City -- at 42nd and Broadway which was the official terminus (does that mean beginning AND ending?) of the Lincoln Highway. In this documentary, at the time it was made, an effort was in place to have some sort of marker to commemorate the highway. If you find yourself at 42nd and Broadway, take a look to see if you can find it. Don't know if they were successful.

PS: I answer my own question. Yes, the Lincoln Highway folks were successful so look for the sign in Times Square. This is from the New York Times on February 14, 2009:

On Thursday, the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan unveiled a sign at 42nd Street and Broadway formally marking Times Square as the eastern terminus of the Lincoln Highway.

“As a wonderful tribute to the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birthday, we have placed a historic marker to celebrate the construction of our nation’s first transcontinental highway,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “It memorializes Times Square’s connection with the route’s storied history, and reminds all of us that New York City remains the gateway to the rest of America.”

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Destination: Batavia, Ohio

I made it to Batavia, and I've checked into the hotel and this view from my window is among the worst. I'll stop complaining about views of parking lots! Usually I stay in a Fairfield Inn (Marriott) while I'm here, but they were booked up so I'm in a Comfort Inn which is in the middle of a renovation. My room is OK, really.

The rain continued all day -- sometimes really coming down and it's still cool. As you may have read below, I was expecting to be a bit uplifted by my visit to Shanksville but that was not in the cards.

Tomorrow morning I go in to my client, and Friday, and Saturday they are hosting this big Fly In at their airport.

Shanksville, Pennsylvania

I saw the Pentagon a month after it had been hit and before it was repaired. I went with Mary to Ground Zero in December 2001, and I had always thought I'd want to go to Shanksville, Pennsylvania, as well -- not enough to make a special trip, but if I were ever in the area.

And today I did. It is way off the beaten path. The site was 15 miles away from my hotel and the google directions said something like 25 minutes which I thought was oddly long, but it was more like 35 minutes on really back, winding roads.

My intent was sincerely to just see it, understand the geography and pay my respects. I have thought about the people on that airplane and my wish for them was that their suffering was short. I have two degrees of separation from two people on that flight -- the brother of someone I know and the former boss of a client's wife. I have to say that I wished I had not gone.

First off, it's billed as a temporary memorial. I guess, like NY, there's too much politics. So it is this area where you don't even know where the plane was -- there's no brochure, map, sign, explanation -- just this fenced in dirt area of trinkets -- angel statues you'd see in the Dollar store, raggedy tshirts hanging, hats, buttons, pins, sea shells, a motley collection of memorial stones -- just any odd memento you felt like leaving I guess you could.

At one point I started crying, just for how alienated I felt from all this.

If you look at the first picture, you see this bunch of figurines in the upper left of the photo. Those are stylized tin angels, one for each passenger that are all rusted. They are the kind of thing you'd see as a lawn ornament.

You can see that the "memorial" consists of a fenced in area where there's this odd collection of stuff- - including a stone from the American Judo Association, naming Todd Beamer (the let's roll guy) an honorary black belt.

Can't we honor these people without having to insert ourselves and our pins and patches into it? Clearly I must be in the minority here of wanting to simply respectfully visit this site, and have a moment of quiet contemplation. There is zero dignity here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

On the Road Again - Day 1 of 6

Ok, today wasn't as fun as it was supposed to be. I made it from my apartment to the rental car place perfectly and effortlessly. Then the trouble started. I had listened to the advice of my friend Barbara and had checked the prices and last night changed my reservation when the same car, same company was $40 less. I should have listened to her about the part of "check to make sure you can get the car out of the tri-state area" -- In this case, "tri-state area" means NY, NJ, CT. I was able to convince the guy that Ohio (I was truthful about my destination) is just "one over" from the tri-state area... well, if you think PA is one of the three states.
Next I got caught my by own carlessness. Who checks for whether the deal is "unlimited mileage?" Evidently, not me and I could only blame myself when I was told you get 150 miles a day and it's 25 cents a mile over. Holy Moly.
You could buy miles, which I was going to do, but then he said he'd give me unlimited miles for 80 dollars more and I said yes. I didn't want to be calculating miles and I figured I had already saved $40 on the rate so it was "only" spending $40 more.
Then... oh small problem, there is no fricking car! They said they were expecting returns "within the hour" and I said no, that's not acceptable. So they bring out this "mini-SUV" which I really didn't want because of the gas mileage.
He told me that they could bring another car from another location and that would take 15 to 20 minutes. I just plain didn't believe it. Told him I'd take the mini-SUV if he waived the $80 and he said no, but he did mark my gas as 1/4 when it was full so I did wrangle 3/4th of a tank of gas from him.
Then it was off with my Google map directions and once across the GW Bridge, it is such a mess of spaghetti -- I mean the roads... and you know how the computer directions give you every road your tire touches. The directions said "exit 14" but there were four exit 14's all at once -- 14A, 1`4B, 14C and 14D so I ended up in downtown Elizabeth NJ -- not a real happy place and finally found the right way.
I drove for about 2 hours and was getting hungry, but I was really in a fairly rural part of NJ and see an exit sign that there's a McD's and I thought I'm not going to try to get fancy and thought I'd go there.
As I got off the exit, there's the McD sign and it said 2.7 miles... Ok, I thought but I drove about 4 miles, didn't see, turned around, didn't see it and at this point I became obsessed with finding it. We know what a McD's looks like, right? Golden arches and all that??
Finally I see it, in a strip mall, like a regular restaurant, no arches, no street signs. The guy who sold me my food could barely communicate with me as he was fighting with the manager over his hours.
Ok, fine... then it's back on the road where it gets colder and rainier and foggier so there were places where the speed limit was reduced to 30 mph but, of course, all the trucks whiz by spraying your car with rain. It was about 45 degrees most of the afternoon.
Ok, I'll jump to the finish. Found my hotel. The lobby is totally torn up in renovation, but my room is clean and nice. The photo is of a lap desk that was on the bed -- have never seen that before and that's the view from my window.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Individual Cheapness

I just read that Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)is proposing as part of financial reform that ATM fees be capped at 50 cents. Yes, that would please me, but paying $2 per transaction is not my particular gripe. I feel that to be able to get cash at the deli on my corner is worth the $2 it charges. This article says that ATM fees range from $1 to $7. Depending on my desperation, I think my objection would kick in at about the $3.75 level. I've never seen a $7 ATM fee.

However today I was cleaning out my purse in advance of my trip and a postage stamp had lost some of its backing, got stuck to another piece of paper and I couldn't salvage it and it damned near killed me to sacrifice a stamp.

I was joking with a friend of mine about reading about a man who uses the interior wax paper/plastic liner of a cereal box to pack his lunches and this friend said she makes file folders out of cereal boxes. Ok, so she's creative.

I saw something on line about how to make a little wallet out of a cereal box and emailed it to her as a joke. Sure enough, the next time I saw her, she presented me with two little wallets she had made for me out of cereal boxes. It had to have taken her a tremendous amount of time. They are a little bigger than a business card and she made the rubber band closure.

I still shudder when I think of pointing out to the barista at Starbucks that someone had left pennies on the counter, and he took his hand and swept them into a garbage can. I wanted to jump over the counter to retrieve them. So I guess I can't make fun of my cereal box friend.

I believe I have sorted out the comments enable-ing, so what's your individual cheapness? Will you pay for an ATM?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sticker Shock

Did some errands today, went to the bank and then to the drug store and I was really stunned when I checked out and the person said $32.05. That used to be a cartload of stuff (Oh, I sound like granny!) and I literally bought three things. I bought hair color for $10, a bottle of antacids -- store brand! -- for $5 and the killer was I really needed some good body lotion and I didn't look at the price, but it was $14. Add tax and that's $32.05.

And by "good" body lotion, I don't mean some dreamy lavendar rosemary body creme with ground rose petals, I mean something that looks almost medicinal. I really wonder how people on very tight budgets do it. Go with gray hair, flaky dry skin and drink club soda?

By the way, if you ever need an antacid and don't have one, I read a trick that you should just keep swallowing as saliva contains a natural antacid. Haven't tried it, but it could work.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Too Close for Comfort

Today I was standing outside in my garden, just staring into space when I heard a voice above me. I looked up and there was this guy sitting on a lawn chair on the fire escape. You can make it out here -- it's the yellow thing. In all the time I'd lived here, no one has ever done that.

A long time ago, there was a young girl in the next building who would sit out on the fire escape and read -- this was at the height of the Harry Potter craze -- and she'd sit there for hours reading. She didn't bother me in the least bit, and I would occasionally talk to her, but now when I see her on the street, she is a sophisticated college girl and doesn't remember me.

When I was reviewing hotel accommodations this past week, a frequent consumer complaint is that you could hear the people above you walking and I thought I would probably not even hear that, since that's a part of everyday apartment life. "Hearing the people above me" is not a deal breaker for me in a hotel.

A few times friends who live out in the country bemoan the fact when a new house is built and they can see it... that's too close for comfort for them. When I lived on Columbus Avenue, I shared a wall with this couple and the man was always coming home from work just as I was going to sleep and they evidently would sit and have a meal or whatever and I couldn't quite make out what they were saying, but it was warm and friendly and it became comforting to go to sleep knowing my unseen neighbor was home talking to his wife.

So I now have found out what my limit is. I don't want a guy who I can see and hear sitting like King Poobah in a lawn chair above my head. Of course, I had this nasty tattle-tale thought that I could complain to the building management company since you really aren't supposed to even have anything on the fire escape, much less sit out on there but at least for today I'll let him have his chair and hope our schedules don't conflict.

Friday, May 7, 2010

In Search of the Ideal

For my trip next week, I had decided to book a hotel for my first night traveling rather than try pot luck. For no particular reason, I picked a town that's a halfway spot between here and Cincinnati.

When I went to look at the selections in this town, the choices ranged from independent motels and the lower end places such as Super 8 for $50-$60 right up to (for this town) a Hampton Inn which is $107.

Of course, my fantasy is some historical inn, surrounded by gardens, maybe with its own ghost, where I have a wonderful dinner in the inn and then retire to my tastefully decorated room. Well, no such luck. I hate Bed & Breakfasts, but I always check them out.

To me, a B&B is the worst of both worlds. It's like being a houseguest where the people don't particularly care for you. I'm really not that interested in gathering in the parlor and talking to that nice couple from Syracuse. When I've been forced to stay in a B&B, I always felt as if I had been sent to my room.

B&Bs are expensive, I think -- the ones in this area were all $190. I'd be willing to pay that for the perfect room, but I swear they all seem to be decorated with the ugliest country kitsch accessories. Is there any bed covering other than a patchwork quilt? I don't want a teddy bear on my window sill or a fake straw hat with dusty dried flowers hanging on the wall. Or a plaque that says "Believe" or whatever.

I spent way too much time studying the choices. Reading the consumer reviews, I have to say the lower end places really grossed me out -- am I'm not that squeamish. But rooms with bed bugs, rooms that smelled like wet dogs, stained, nasty bedspreads, bathrooms that hadn't been cleaned, somebody's socks left on the floor just turn me off.

Basically I want a clean bed, a clean bathroom and a TV that works. I want to feel as if I can go barefoot in the room and not get a foot fungus. It took me a while to realize that a modest serviceable room doesn't exist -- if a room is modest, it's going to come with dog smells, a dirty bathroom, and a bedspread that has been used for all sorts of things I don't want to think about.

Remembering an experience of a friend who opted for a non-airconditioned hotel room to save money and hey, we're on the beach, how hot can it be? (She and her husband found out how hot it can be and cut their weekend short)... Anyway, I opted for the boring, high-priced Hampton Inn for $107.

I did try all sorts of things to get the price down, including calling the hotel directly, visiting various sites and I even googled coupon codes and got one for Hampton Inn which was about three months old and didn't work.

After all this, my room better smell like a mountain meadow with a bathroom where surgery could be performed. And I better feel like I want to snuggle with the bedspread.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

National Hamburger Month

Writing about hamburgers in the post below reminded me I'd been saving a news release I received from the Iron Hill Brewery with eight locations all in Delaware. The restaurant is celebrating May's National Hamburger Month by offering a different burger each day.

Here are the first week's offerings:

Saturday, May 1
Triple “B” Burger: burger, bacon and boursin cheese with red onion jam

Sunday, May 2
New England Burger: lettuce, tomato, bacon, Muenster cheese, maple mayonnaise

Monday, May 3
Tijuana Burger: guacamole, tomato, bacon, pepper-jack cheese, ancho-honey mayonnaise

Tuesday, May 4
Reuben Burger: coleslaw, bacon, Swiss cheese, Thousand Island dressing

Wednesday, May 5
For Cinco de Mayo, the South of the Border Burger: fajita-spiced meat, red onion jam, bacon, Swiss cheese

Thursday, May 6
Foodie Burger: truffled mushrooms, tomato, boursin cheese

Friday, May 7
Saltimbocca Burger: sautéed spinach, caramelized onions, prosciutto, provolone

Me? I could eat any of those -- love the idea of the red onion jam -- the only ingredient in the first week that's iffy to me is maple mayo. Like maple syrup, like mayo, but I'm not sure if I'd like the combination.

If forced to choose among these, I'd take the Reuben Burger. I'm a sucker for cole slaw on burgers, but only when accompanied by a half-dozen napkins!

Things that Make You Go Hmmmm

There's a cat that lives two doors down, in a basement apartment, who will be let out to hang around the steps and sidewalk. I've never seen this cat go farther than a few feet from his homebase. Every so often I'll see it hiding behind a step and when a dog goes by, the cat will lunge at it hissing, just to scare the crap out of the dog.

It's actually kind of funny to watch the poor, dumb dog strolling down the street --dum, dum, dee,dum -- without a care in the world and then hisssssssssss goes the cat and the dog typically jumps up. So today I warned a dog walker about the cat, and she said, "He [meaning her dog] wouldn't even know what it was." As I was wondering what that meant, she added, "He's never seen a cat."

Wow. A dog that's never seen a cat. That just struck me as weird. But there are so few cats let outside in the city and if the owner didn't have a cat and didn't have friends with cats, of course the dog would never have seen one.

It reminded me of this woman who lived near me my freshman year in college in the dorm and appropos of some late night discussion we were having announced that she never ate a hamburger. WHAT?? A child of the 50s/60s who had never had a hamburger? I remember we grilled her (ha! no pun intended) as to how she could have gotten to be 18 years of age without ever having eaten a hamburger.

These days an 18 year old hamburger virgin wouldn't be that hard to believe -- growing up with vegan parents or not eating red meat or whatever, but back then, not having eaten a hamburger was just plain un-American!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Born To Be (not so) Wild

Next week, I am planning a road trip. Sick of airline travel, I decided I'm going to have a mini-road trip adventure and drive to my client in Cincinnati. It's a 10-hour drive and I'm going easy and doing it over two days. Faster, cheaper, is not the point. Having made this trip multi-times a year for 17 years (today is my 17th "service anniversary" with this client), I need something new.

I have plotted my route on both MapQuest and Google. Same time, approximately same number of miles so I'll have to decide which route to take. One decision I hadn't made is whether to get a hotel room in advance for the night I spend getting there.

Of course, this is such an exciting event for me that I fancy myself roaring off on a motorcycle to the strains of "Born to be Wild" rather than going to a client in Cincinnati in a rented full-size car.

I sort of wanted to just see where the first day took me, but I have gotten stuck twice in my career having great difficulty getting a hotel room that night. Once when I was flying early out of Milwaukee Airport and I thought I could just get one of many airport hotel rooms -- it was a Saturday night in the summer and I thought "how crowded could it be?"

Well, I hadn't figured on the Wisconsin State Fair and I could not get a room anywhere. I drove for a while and then ran smack into some sort of huge Bingo tournament. It was getting later and later and I was seriously considering finding some sort of safe parking lot but that scared me.

Finally I decided to drive to O'Hare thinking there's got to be an empty room on a Saturday night and there was -- but it was so much hassle.

I was still willing to take pot luck until I was talking to someone at this client about it. He said that when some of the guys drove a trade show exhibit to Florida for a show, they didn't have a room and when it was time to stop for the night, they ran into this huge cheerleading tournament-- this was a week night in Tennessee. They had to drive another 100 miles to get a room.

That was enough to convince me I don't want that stress, so I'll figure out a halfway mark and book a room in advance.