Sunday, July 31, 2011

Day Ten: Almost Home

I'll be home by lunch time tomorrow. Drove about 8 hours today, stopped in Allentown, PA, even though I could have made it all the way home. Didn't want to battle Sunday night traffic. Started out about 70 miles into Ohio and am now very close to the NJ border.

I have a big suitcase full of laundry -- and I have to say it will be nice to be home and in my own bed. Today's drive was also pretty... starting in Ohio....

The mountains of Pennsylvania really are pretty, so old and worn down and covered with trees. Not a sharp edge to be found....

For this last night, another hotel bargain -- $59 at this Red Roof Inn... just like last night, it's old, it's outdated, but it's definitely clean. This room has a safe, refrigerator, microwave, desk, big bathroom... quite a value.

As an ex-smoker, I remain fascinated by those fake water vapor cigarettes. Today at a truck stop, the store had some at the checkout. One with 500 puffs, or so it claimed, was $7.99. I've heard much higher prices for the better ones. I have to confess to some temptation -- maybe a 4 on a 1 to 10 scale to buy one, but the only thing that has kept me from not smoking is the complete belief that one puff will lead to two and to three and then it will be off to the races. I would think after 25 years -- I believe I stopped smoking in 1986 -- that the desire would no longer be there. It's odd that I am so grateful I don't smoke, I look at the prices and can't believe that people pay what they do for cigarettes, and yet this client of mine, who is also an ex-smoker said that if we knew we would die the next day, or the world would come to an end the next day that we would have to have a cigarette together. I am tempted to delete this, but it's true. What an addiction.

Next stop: East 87th Street.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Day Nine... Homeward Bound

I'm headed east today, but first some unfinished business from Fond du Lac ( the town near Oshkosh where I was staying ) -- this is Gilles, the drive in restaurant where they offered the Dusty Road Sundae. Doesn't it look like something out of another era?

I left about 8:45 and now I'm just east of Toledo.  This is the first leg, heading down to Milwaukee...

Then it was Milwaukee to Chicago and then east to Indiana where this was taken. It was for the most part a really beautiful day.

My new favorite places are these truck stops/travel centers where you can get gas, of course... oh wait, that reminds me of something funny this morning. I was at the gas pump first thing before I left and I really wasn't paying attention, had swiped my credit card when the voice of God appeared... Lady at Pump #5 the voice boomed, coming from somewhere above me... I looked around and saw I was the only lady in the vicinity. The voice pointed out to me, helpfully, that I was at a diesel pump. Whoops. Hadn't even noticed. I don't think I could have put diesel in my car as I believe the hose nozzle is a different size, but I sure felt stupid!

I stopped at this place, not knowing I was at the crossroads of America, as the door says and this was like a giant 7-11 and fireworks superstore. I used their restroom, bought some gum and headed back to the highway, not stopping for the gun show. Wow. We New Yorkers don't often see signs for gun shows.

I spent way too much time researching hotels, but I found a great deal. I'm at a Super 8 which are usually dumps, but this one got good online reviews. Not exactly a room with a view, but I like being able to pull right up to my room. The room is old, dated, but it is very clean, even smells clean. Big King size bed, new fixtures in the bathroom, semi-fluffy towels... and all this for the bargain price of $45!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 8

My boy toy just turned 40. I'm feeling old.

Years ago, at one of my former clients, I reported to someone who was a year or two out of college. I'd never had so young a boss before, but we became great friends. Fifteen years ago, he and I figured today, we were at a "staff appreciation dinner" here in Oshkosh where the owner of the company put on this fancy dinner at a hotel and then went around the room and told everyone what a wonderful job each was doing. He concluded by saying, "Did I miss anyone?" and everyone said no.

Well, he had missed someone -- Greg and me. So I whispered to Greg that the heck with this guy, we'll have our own staff appreciation event and said the next day we'd have a bratwurst together for lunch. Bratwurst is big in Oshkosh.

Thus BratFest was born -- it turned into an annual event for the past 15 years, and today we had BratFest 2011. Greg has aged from 25 to 40, and I haven't aged a day.

We have it at a local watering hole called Mr. Cinder's. Note position of apostrophe and the unnecessary quotation marks around REAL CHARCOAL.

I had a senior moment. Had told Greg that I had listened to the Jayson Blair book on CD -- he was the writer for the NY Times who got caught making up whole stories and eventually got fired. Told Greg the book just ends suddenly and it doesn't answer so many questions. Since Greg has his master's degree in journalism, I thought he'd enjoy the book. He came to my car and I gathered up the six discs and then gave Greg the sliding cardboard holder for the plastic box. Greg wondered why there was a gap as if there was another plastic box missing. I realized I'd only listened to half the book (hey, no wonder I thought it ended suddenly!) and I found the other plastic box in the little tote bag where I had my other books.

Never mind, I said. Here's the FIRST HALF of the book. Felt like a fool. But now I can listen to the rest!

I have tried to keep work out of this -- I know you're not supposed to blog about your clients -- not if you want to pay the bills, anyway, but this morning I was at a breakfast and couldn't resist including this photo of two WASP. These ladies are the Women Airforce Service Pilots, and they flew military airplanes as civilians during World War II. They never got their due, but this year, eachWASP(or surviving family member) got a Congressional Medal in April which they wear.  They are such an inspiration -- when they were introduced this morning, they got a standing ovation -- and a particular inspiration to today's female military pilots.

When I saw one WASP speak at a dinner, she was so frail and barely made it up to the podium. They had a high chair like a barstool chair for her to sit while she spoke, and everyone was sort of holding their breath for whether she would have the strength to speak and finally she said in this clear, lovely voice, "You never know what an old lady has been up to..." and everyone laughed and could have listened to her for hours.

So here are the WASP who dress like these women are dressed... this is a not so very good snapshot, but I like to look at the little girl and her mother's face. You can barely see it, but both are wearing their medals, and the one on the left you can see a little better. They're sitting on a golf cart, about to be taken to their next appearance. If you're ever googling some night, google the WASP -- they are such a dynamic group with amazing stories.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day Seven

I must say that when I watch one of my clients' events (that I've planned) unfold flawlessly, with good attendance, no problems and flowing smoothly, I sit there observing, first sort of holding my breath and then as the event goes on, feeling proud of what I've put together. The press breakfast this morning was really the best we've ever had for this particular group; it really was well done, if I do say so myself.

Then I had a few meetings, and since I got up at 530, I was fading so decided to leave the field and drove down to this lovely area of town on the lake. The lake is Lake Winnebago which is huge. It even has seagulls which I relate to as salt water birds. Maybe they're not.

Came upon this ugly little beach with people actually in the water. I'm afraid I'm a salt water/ocean snob. This looked like swimming in stagnant water. In the second photo below, those are people.

On Tuesday, someone had given me an "edible bouquet" as a thank you present. I had tried to give it to one of my clients to have in their tent, but it got left behind, and I just put it in the back seat of my car -- no way to keep it cold or fresh.

Two days later, this thing was getting ripe -- in more ways than one -- so today when I saw these seagulls, a lightbulb went off. Yes, folks,  nothing goes to waste. Seagulls do love fruit -- especially overly ripe cantalouppe for some reason. Strawberries, not so much. They are squawking nasty birds in some way, but I'm glad that the fruit was enjoyed.

Next discovery: The Carl Schurz monument. This is a coincidence because the park three blocks from me which runs along the East River is named after him. The base of the monument calls him "the country's greatest German American." (BTW, the "sticks" in the background are masts from sailboats on the lake.)

Here's a bit of his Wikipedia entry, including being the inventor of "My country right or wrong" which I had no idea had been bastardized to mean something totally different from what Carl meant.

Carl Schurz (March 2, 1829 – May 14, 1906) was a German revolutionary, American statesman and reformer, and Union Army General in the American Civil War. He was also an accomplished journalist, newspaper editor and orator, who in 1869 became the first German-born American elected to the United States Senate.

His wife, Margarethe Schurz, was instrumental in establishing the kindergarten system in the United States. During his later years, Schurz was perhaps the most prominent independent in American politics, noted for his high principles, his avoidance of political partisanship, and his moral conscience.

He is famous for saying: "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." Many streets, schools, and parks are named in honor of him, including New York City's Carl Schurz Park.

This is an old neighborhood with old trees, old houses, beautiful little gardens and this one that's for sale. I wonder what the price is and if I'd be happy in Oshkosh. I love Victorian era homes and screened in porches like this one.

And, finally, this is downtown Oshkosh -- Main Street.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day Six

Today was really a dreadful day -- woke up to hard rain and gray skies. I worried that I wouldn't be able to drive over the field where cars are parked. I also needed gas -- the light had been on for a while so my first stop was a gas station. I have a bad habit (well, now I know it's a bad habit) when I'm filling up of taking only my credit card with me, leaving the driver's door open, and then when I've swiped my card, I put it in my bra while I'm pumping gas.

That was evidently what I did this morning, and worrying about being late, worrying about the rain, worrying about everything else, I forgot about the card. Tonight as I was finally ripping my own clothes off that were damp from the rain, I'm standing there just about nekkid, and I realize there is a gold American Express card affixed to one of my bossoms.  It made me laugh, and I guess I should be grateful for the damp weather so it stayed stuck there all day. I was oblivious.

I didn't take any photos today due to the weather.

I had to print out this single page document that I have to bring to my media breakfast tomorrow really early (6:45), and I had asked the hotel if they have a computer to print it out and they said yes. In case you aren't traveling, many hotels have a computer with a printer attached either in the lobby or else in a little room off the lobby which they magnaminously call their "business center."

So I'm tired, hungry, and spent some time formatting this document, getting it correctly on a USB stick and then my plan was to get it printed and then go find some dinner. By this time, it was 8:30. I go to the lobby where the front desk man told me that they can't do printing since the General Manager has gone home and it would be his computer.

I said, "This is a business hotel, and this is your busiest week of the year." I put on a brave, aggressive front, but I just wanted to cry -- really -- like "does everything have to be a battle?" I pointed out that 8:30 is a reasonable time so finally I gave up, vowing in my mind to write a nasty comment on line about this. He suggested Staples, but added they close at 9 and they were at the next exit.

So of course I'm feeling quite the martyr, pissed at myself that once again I'm schlepping instead of relaxing while also knowing full well that this document is likely not even going to be used, despite their request for it.

I believe there are small wireless printers, and I wonder if it's worth buying one.

In any event, I find Staples, and it was like a miracle. Just as I pulled up, a car in the best parking space, first spot, directly by the door, NOT handicapped pulled out and so I got a good space. I walk into this massive Staples and ask in this really crabby voice, "Can you print a document off a USB stick?" and with all her corn-fed perkiness, the clerk said "Oh yeah" and I said "Where?" and she said, "We can do it for 'ya [imagine a sarah palin-like accent] in Staples Print and Copy Center."

"Where's that?" I said sighing and crabby.

"Right behind ya," she chirped.

I turn around and there is this massive sign PRINT AND COPY CENTER. In two steps, I was there; the woman printed it instantly; I checked it over, and paid the quite reasonable sum of 58 cents. She even put these five sheets in a box for me rather than a bag so they wouldn't get wrinkled. I left the box in my car so I wouldn't leave it in my hotel room in the morning! If I had a stop watch, I'd guess I was in and out in under two minutes. The universe must have been feeling sorry for me.

So then it was on to dinner. The road Staples is on is one of those all-American areas with every fast food franchise in existence, and I just did Taco Bell. Nachos bel Grande, three beef tacos (hard) and a lime cooler which is like lime juice and seltzer.

I promise pictures tomorrow, and I might have to go sample the Dusty Road sundae. Stephanie: Have you seen malted milk powder in our neighborhood?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day Five

My hotel is about 16 miles from Oshkosh and this is the basic view for 15-1/2 miles. Divided highway with cornfields on either side... never much traffic. Throw in some barns, cows, tractor supply places and an occasional massive giant huge adult book store, and that's the view. I'm as serious about the adult book stores as I am about the omnipresent corn:

I have no idea how many thousands of acres of corn we grow here, but it is everywhere for miles on both sides of the road.

Speaking of corn, I sought out my little popcorn house, but didn't buy an popcorn tonight. I'm enamored with this little house, fresh out of the 1950s-early 60s which sits in a corner of a restaurant parking lots selling only popcorn. The sign says "crispy popcorn." They appear to have a steady stream of customers.

Last night I had discovered this place called Gilles, which is unself-consciously straight out of 1962 as well, maybe earlier. Complete with carhops. In case you're curious, don't be alarmed by the "badger sundae." Badgers are the mascot of the University of Wisconsin. I used to know what a Dusty Road sundae is -- I'm going to guess it's powdered chocolate and nuts... I'm going to google it and see.

Here's a blog post...

Dusty Road Sundaes!

Dusty road sundaes are the greatest creation ever!! They must be Pennsylvanian because no one I've talked to has has heard of them. They consist of ice cream topped with chocolate syrup and malted milk powder :D It is a fantastic combination that I highly recommend. I prefer mine with soft serve vanilla, or grasshopper pie ice cream (by Hood: mint ice cream with oreos and fudge!!! Wow! Too bad they don't make it anymore :(
It's hard to find malted milk powder in the store and in a desperate moment I ordered some on Amazon. Unfortunately, they are only sold in 4 packs. Seriously. I love dusty roads, but I still only go through about one container a year. So now I have a 3 extra containers of malted milk powder. I will need to increase my ice cream consumption just to eat it all before the expiration date! Dusty roads anyone?

In the comments, people agree they are from Pennsylvania, but then a Wisconsite chimes in with:

No they are not necessarily from Pennsylvania. My parents bought a Star Dairy Ice Cream store in 1950 and one of the Sundays we made was the Dusty Road Sunday, made as described.My Dad first made them working as a Soda Jerk when he was in High School around 1925 in Port Chester New York

So this is an old fasioned drive in with carhops who bring your food on a tray that attaches to your car window. Here are some views from my car:

If you look in the rear view mirror, that's the food tray -- you can see the ketchup for my french fries. I didn't have dessert -- maybe tomorrow I'll check out a dusty road sundae although the malted milk powder doesn't really appeal to me.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Trip Report: Day 4 of 11

I forgot to bring my camera today so I have no photos. Nothing much to report. One event down, four to go. Two tomorrow. Decided I find geek men more attractive than traditionally attractive men. Lots of engineers in Oshkosh.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Trip Report: Day 3 of 11 ... Oshkosh!

I made it to Oshkosh, and am now in my hotel room in nearby Fond du Lac and ready to start work tomorrow.  It was gray and gloomy and starting to rain when I left the hotel this morning. Here I am paying to leave Indiana, on to Illinois...

Full rain going through Chicago; this is the Dan Ryan Expressway which we hear about. I was glad it was Sunday morning because I bet the workday traffic is horrible. That's the Chicago skyline in the distance...

Then it was North to Wisconsin where it was sunny, of course...

These purple flowers attracted me. I'm not sure what they are.... heather?

Same Microtel room; same ground floor view...

This must be the budget room; no refrigerator, microwave, etc.

On my drive today, I listened to my books on CD. Am enjoying the book by Jason Blair, that New York Times reporter who got fired for making up stories. I bought it on eBay. He reads his own book, and I have to say I don't like him, but I enjoy the story, if that makes sense.

I think I'm going to see if I can buy a hat tonight for the sun...other than that, I'm ready for work tomorrow.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Trip Report: Day 2 of 11

My slow move West continues. Greetings from Elkhart, Indiana. I really could have made it to Oshkosh today, but I like the slow pace of this, and it's given me time to catch up on email for work since there's so much activity around this show still -- final proofreading, mistakes, changes of plans, etc.

So I started in Pennsylvania, drove across Ohio...

Paid to get myself out of Ohio:

Passed Fremont, Indiana, which claims to be the "fireworks capital of the US"...

Stopped for the day in Elkhart, Indiana where I have a room with two queen beds....this picture is confusing since there are mirrors at the head of the beds so you see the reflection from the other side of the room...

and a window seat....

Not exactly an award winning view -- you can see I'm on the ground floor...

with a microwave, refrigerator, closet, iron, ironing board, coffee maker, ice bucket, flat screen tv -- and a black plastic ashtray which I haven't seen in years. This is a non-smoking room.

tomorrow, it's on to Oshkosh....

Friday, July 22, 2011

Trip Report: Day 1 of 11

When I woke up and turned on the television, the first words I heard were, "This is probably the hottest day you will ever wake up in in New York City." And I thought oh man.

I had slept with my upstairs and downstairs air conditioners on because I didn't want to leave my apartment all sweaty. When I opened my front door, it hit me. It was like a steam bath with heat lamps on. I got a cab with a driver from the Ivory Coast and I asked him if he is used to this weather and he snapped at me that it isn't this hot in the Ivory Coast -- oh yeah, it was hotter and more humid than equatorial Africa. He did say that they get nice ocean breezes in the Ivory Coast. No cooling breezes this morning.

Anyway, off I went -- listened to two different books on CD. I did get a car with Sirius, but no service, so again, I just called the 888-number. Once again, I got incredible customer service. This time, the guy didn't comp me like last time, but he opened an account and told me he could charge me for a minimum of two weeks and then I should cancel my account when I return the car. The big price? Ten dollars and nine cents -- and I splurged and got the "premium" plan. So I enjoyed that alot.

Nine-tenths of my driving was just west on Interstate 80 which I take from the George Washington Bridge to Chicago. Once out of metro New Jersey, it really is pretty as these one-handed 70 mph photos indicate...

I'm right near the PA/OH border. Here's the view from my room. That's not my hotel I see; it's the Super 8 next door.