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Nickeled and Dimed

Posted by Sumiki , in Life, The Great American Road Trip Jun 15 2014 · 70 views

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We checked out of the hotel and passed the Saratoga Raceways on the way out of the always-packed Saratoga Springs downtown. We saw a few horses being groomed and ridden, but no races were slated, so we just looked around to see what we could see from the streets.
Our first stop of the day was a little ways from Saratoga Springs at the Saratoga Battlefield. Despite being one of the most influential battles in the history of the world, the Saratoga Battlefield is not as well-traveled or built-up as, say, Gettysburg is. Nevertheless, the visitor center is well done, despite the clear lack of funding. It was also fairly well-traveled, which is surprising considering that the only access is on secondary roads with utterly frivolous hairpin turns.
The two battles in September and October of 1777 marked the turning point of the Revolution and thus of world history. British forces occupied New York City and Québec, and were preparing to come down Lake Champlain and the Hudson River to cut off the revolutionaries, who were mostly confined to New England.
The beginning of this strategy worked, as the British captured a series of small forts, including Ticonderoga. In order to stop the advance, the American forces rallied near Saratoga, at a natural choke point along the Hudson called Bemis Heights. Sitting on the choice of going down the river and getting slaughtered by American forces or trying to beat the Americans on Bemis Heights, British General John "Gentleman Johnny" Burgoyne chose to attack.
The September battle was somewhat of a stalemate, with the Americans still on Bemis Heights. The British dug in, and the second battle on October 7th ended with the Americans routing the British. This got France on board with the revolutionary cause, declaring war on Britain.
We drove around the battlefield and got a sense of the terrain, which is remarkably well-preserved. The visitor center even had one of the original cannon used at the battle.
The most interesting thing about the battle - and, in fact, Fort Ticonderoga as well - is that Benedict Arnold, commonly known only as a traitor, was incredibly influential. Had he not married a Loyalist half his age and attempted to surrender West Point to the British, he'd be considered one of the greatest American heroes. As it is, without Arnold's heroism at influential points, the Revolution could just as easily have been a failure. As one of the volunteers put it, "we'd be looking at Arnold's face on the one-dollar bill."
It took us nearly three hours to complete the driving tour, including our many stops to walk around and see things. We pulled onto the road and found ourselves to be incredibly low on gas - which made sense, considering that we hadn't gotten any since we stopped in rural Québec.
My mom took much longer than expected getting snacks and drinks inside, so I went in to find her at the counter, 75 cents short. I procured three quarters from the car and gave them to the man behind the counter.
This was not to be the last fun we'd have with loose change.
We got onto I-87 and rolled on through Albany, where we lost a considerable amount of traffic and entered the toll road, where we spotted a few deer along the side of the road. I'd forgotten this about New York toll roads - you pick up a ticket on the way in, and then turn in the ticket wherever you exit, with the exit number corresponding to a particular toll amount. Thus, the state can tax individuals who use more of the road.
With the toll for our exit at $2.70, my mom and I rummaged for change, and we ended up paying the $2.70 almost exclusively in nickels, which took the lady at the toll booth nearly a full minute to count out. Her parting words to us were "hey, next time - use pennies!" - although her words were nearly incomprehensible through her laughter.
Now driving a slightly lighter car, we arrived at our hotel at 4:30 and checked in, getting to our room and immediately looking up local places to eat in Kingston. We couldn't find the place that we originally wanted to go - the girl at the front desk confused the place we'd looked at with a different place on the other side of town, and our stupid little GPS is now officially on its last legs, getting all turned around, spinning in circles even when we were at a complete stop. We eventually saw a sign for a grill up in a mall, which we pulled into.
It was a bit of a sports-bar kind of place, but it wasn't all that loud. The server was entertained by my order of extra blue cheese on my blue cheese burger and the fact that a lemon seed had perched itself right on the end of my straw after a particularly difficult sip. If I hadn't taken as long of a sip, it would have slipped back down the straw, but if I'd gone just a millisecond longer, it would have gone into my mouth.
Tomorrow: the FDR Presidential Library at Hyde Park, with the aim of getting as far south as Pennsylvania.



Posted by Sumiki , in Life, The Great American Road Trip Jun 14 2014 · 50 views

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We meandered through Burlington at 11:00 and worked our way south along US 7, eventually getting out of the city and through countryside. We paralleled Lake Champlain as it narrowed, crossing over it into New York at noon. We continued south to Ticonderoga and traversed a surprisingly long unpaved road up to Fort Ticonderoga itself.
The fort is exceptionally tiny, especially after seeing the monstrous forts in Halifax and Québec. It was built by the French during the Seven Years' War (or the French and Indian War, as the theater in North America is usually referred to), captured by the British at the end of that war, then was taken without a shot by Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys at the beginning of the Revolution. It was eventually re-taken by the British, only to be re-taken by the Americans.
Fort Ticonderoga had degenerated into ruins by the mid-1800s, but was later refurbished and restored with help from funding from an affluent tycoon. Nowadays it's run by a nonprofit organization - not the National Park Service, strangely enough.
We wandered in and around the fort - it's not that big - leaving ample time for ambling around museums and exhibits that weren't always air conditioned. It took us two hours to get around when all was said and done, but most of our time was spent indoors, marveling at their impressive collection of muskets, powder horns, and other artifacts - including a trundle bed once owned by Benedict Arnold.
We climbed up into the Adirondack Mountains, cutting across scenic landscapes and paralleling Paradox Lake, eventually intersecting with a deserted I-87 heading south to Saratoga Springs. Traffic picked up considerably as we continued on the road.
It was somewhat backed up getting into Saratoga Springs, but it did not delay us much, and we checked into the hotel at 3:30. As we unloaded our bags, my dad got us a reservation at the Wheatfields Restaurant, the local restaurant institution in Saratoga Springs. We cleaned up (well, as much as we could, as my dad and I are sporting some exceptionally ragged facial hair) and headed out, navigating the absurdly cramped streets of downtown Saratoga and eventually paying ten dollars for parking because there was literally no other parking spot in the entire downtown area.
Wheatfields was larger and different to my dad vivid descriptions, although his last visit was 23 years ago. The menu and décor were significantly different, but their main attraction - pasta made in-house - was still there. Having had little to eat all day, we thoroughly enjoyed the fresh bread, with butter that had just enough of a hint of garlic to make it interesting. We all split two appetizers - calamari, lightly breaded and glazed with a spicy Thai sauce, and crab cakes. I ate the majority of the calamari, including the delicious tentacles. It was easily the best calamari I've ever had.
The squid, however, ended up being the highlight of the meal, as our respective pastas were much more mediocre than we'd come to anticipate from the bread and the appetizers.
Tomorrow: the Battle of Saratoga en route to Kingston, New York.



Posted by Sumiki , in The Great American Road Trip, Life Jun 13 2014 · 85 views

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We left the hotel at 11:14 after amusing the valet staff with our rudimentary French, heading for Stade Municipal, looking forward to what we were sure would be a strange pennant collection from the stadium of the independent-league Québec Capitales. After circling around the hotel and working through downtown Québec, we pulled into the parking lot. Armed with a cheat-sheet for the sentences we'd need in order to purchase a pennant exclusively in French, we headed in.
Fortunately for us, the lady at the front desk knew a little more English than we know of French, and so we were able to purchase a pennant and hat.
We left the stadium around noon and exited the city as we'd entered it, then headed southwest across the St. Lawrence Seaway and headed out more into the countryside. The rain was constant, and got worse the longer we stayed in Québec. The Québécois drivers never had their rear lights on, passed at incredible speeds on wet pavement, and generally just drove like crazy people.
Around 1:00 we got drinks, snacks, and gas at a service station, using up the last of our Canadian cash. We were well into Québec farmland at this point, and we got even further into it as we meandered our way southeast along provincial routes, including the infernally infested paved drainage ditch that was QC-235, a busy two-lane road through the middle of nowhere where more than one Québec driver passed farm equipment on blind hills.
The rain increased. Standing water was visible in the fields next to us, and every truck that was going north left behind a great plume of mist. We still got across Québec, and the rains eventually abated as we passed through the small communities of Bedford and Pike River.
The strangest thing about the region of southern Québec we traversed was the random two mountains that rose up out of the flat farmland, visible for miles around even through the mist.
It took fifteen minutes to get across the border. We accessed the trip odometer when we were stopped, switching away from the Metric system and writing down our current mileage: 3590 miles, or 5777.7 kilometers.
We then entered Vermont, completing my personal collection of the contiguous 48 states. The sun broke through the clouds and we could catch more glimpses of Lake Champlain. The rain turned to mist and finally stopped altogether as we reached the town of St. Albans, which has an interesting bit of history behind it - a raid on the town in 1864 by Confederates who came down from Montreal to rob banks and send supplies back south. Despite meticulous planning, their raid wasn't as much of a success as they'd originally thought, and the men who carried it out were eventually acquitted under the logic that the raid was an act of war.
There's not much now when it comes to the raid, but we still stopped in St. Albans. The adorable downtown was scouted for historical markers and food, and we found both - right across the street from each other. We ate at a little Italian restaurant called Mimmo's, where the service was slowed due to a change in shift and some sort of refrigerator problem in the kitchen, but was delicious. We later found out that they'd won some local awards for excellence, and we could see why - my baked ziti was excellent, and I got similar reports about the pizza and meatball spaghetti.
Afterwards, we walked around across the street, where we saw the second Sherman tank in two days as well as a series of monuments dedicated to veterans of conflicts scattered around a picturesque little park.
At 5:00 we got back on the Interstate and at 5:20 we got to our hotel, where, once we settled down, loads of laundry were put into the washer.
Around 6:30 we left for the stadium of the Vermont Lake Monsters, a single-A team who shares their historic ballpark with the University of Vermont. We went down the road five minutes to the stadium. Their season won't start until next Monday, but three or four guys were there, preparing for Opening Day. A fellow let us in to purchase a pennant and hat, as well as point out some bits of their quaint little ballpark.
We then drove out of there, saw the grave of Ethan Allen, then continued into downtown Winooski, where we parked and walked around towards the Winooski River, where, to our surprise, a boardwalk overlooked the rapids below. We followed this boardwalk up the river, where it petered out into a dirt trail paralleling the river, narrowing considerably the farther we got. We saw interesting plant life and about a dozen slugs on a downed tree - all of them burnt orange, very small, and squiggling around.
The trail continued on, but we turned back - there was nothing else to see under the bridge, and deep in the woods we wanted to have plenty of light to get out, which we did. We walked around a few blocks of Winooski and then headed back to the hotel, which is full of screaming kids. Thankfully it has died down, but it was a full-on racket there for a while.
Tomorrow: continuing southbound to Fort Ticonderoga and Saratoga Springs.


Room of 10,000 Towels

Posted by Sumiki , in Life, The Great American Road Trip Jun 12 2014 · 83 views

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We ate breakfast on the top floor. I modified my coffee with six or seven sugar packets, and it was still quite bitter. My dad drank it nearly straight, though I'm not entirely sure how. After this, we headed out into Old Québec again, just as we'd done yesterday.
But before we headed into the heart of Old Québec, we headed slightly south towards the Québec Citadel, a nearly impenetrable fortification that, like the Halifax Citadel, had served many different purposes over the years, and various structures on the site - the highest point in Québec City on this side of the St. Lawrence Seaway - have kept out invading forces for centuries. Today, it's still a military base, but serves more as a living history museum.
The Royal 22nd Regiment is still stationed there, continuing its long and gloried tradition as the only French-speaking regiment in Canada, and for its bravery in battle - specifically at Vimy Ridge during World War I.
We got a tour around the Citadel, seeing museums, the old jail, and general bits of historical interest. They had a full Sherman on display outside the old munitions building, and a large collection of bayonets in the jail - including a serrated one that looked to be a cross between a machete and a bread knife. Our guide had a thick accent but was understandable.
After exiting the Citadel (and avoiding the loud school groups that infest the historical areas) we walked down into Old Québec, where the European streets were not nearly as crowded as yesterday due to the rain that came down steadily throughout the day. We walked towards the St. Lawrence Seaway and took the funicular down.
The funicular is basically a box that's put on a inclined railway. While the box stays level, it descends on an exceptionally steep angle. The stairs are an option, but the nominal fee we paid to descend in the funicular was well worth it.
Our previous excursions had taken us around the upper city, but we were now down in the lower city, the oldest part of Old Québec. It was filled with tourists - mostly Asian - and featured shops. The architecture was not all that different from the upper city. We stopped in at a chocolate shop, where we each got two delectable morsels - I had a fairly large praline shaped like a large seashell and a much smaller bite of orange-flavored caramel, which I later found out was made from Grand Marnier - albeit without the alcohol.
Dad and I got some delicious, sweet gelato, then we went around the lower city, seeing the old town square and looking inside a very old church, which was not quite as grand as the one we saw in Chéticamp (or even the Old North Church in Boston, for that matter), but it was still serene and grand.
We walked around a little more of the old city, but the rain was getting progressively worse, the fog was rolling in, and our feet were getting sore from the  sheer amount of walking that we'd done. We took the funicular back up - after some concern over maximum capacity after a bunch of Japanese tourists crammed into an already sardine-can-like environment - and walked back through Old Québec and out to our hotel.
From the topmost floors, we saw the fog get even worse. Despite the constant rain, we saw everything we really wanted to see in Québec City. In fact, the rain kept most of the large school groups off the streets, making getting around much easier on the whole. With no more towels and another night to spend in Québec City, my dad called the front desk to get six towels. Two people showed up no more than five minutes apart, each bringing six towels ... and then later, even more folks showed up with three more towels. As I write this, we have no less than fifteen sets of towels stacked around our room.
I've never seen this many towels.
With sore legs and continuously miserable weather, we nibbled upstairs, but our previous lack of food caught up to us and thus we headed downstairs for food. My dad had a flank steak with vegetables and a salad, I had a flat-iron steak, juicy and tender, with potato skins adorned with delicious and über-pungent blue cheese bits, and my mom got a small pizza, of which she ate two-thirds. Everything was flavorful and delicious. We all split a chocolate dessert and then went back up to the top floor. As I printed out directions in the business center, we entertained ourselves by trying to remember every trip meal we've eaten in the past three years.
Tomorrow: we get back to the United States, beginning the last leg of the trip.


2001: A Hotel Odyssey

Posted by Sumiki , in Life, The Great American Road Trip Jun 11 2014 · 57 views

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We got on the road a little before noon after sleeping in a little bit. Leaving Fredericton was much easier than getting in - just a few merges and we were on the Trans-Canada Highway, first westbound and then northbound to Québec.
We crossed many small brooks and paralleled the St. John River all the way up. We were never more than a few miles from the border with Maine, and made excellent time up the highway.
We pulled into a gas station in Woodstock, which was, to our surprise, full-service. We got some drinks and snacks, topped off gas and oil, and - most interestingly - purchased some lobster-flavored potato chips, which were okay. They had a more general fish flavor, which got gross after three bites.
Around 1:30 we saw a female moose on the side of the road. Aside from a few designated areas (so as to not interfere with migration patterns), the major routes through New Brunswick have specialized moose fences that lead them away from the highway if they get on the wrong side. This particular moose was on the other side of the fence, which was a good sign - the fences are doing their job.
Around the Grand Falls area, signs - which are provincially mandated to be bilingual - began featuring French much more prominently, with the French words first and the English words second and usually smaller. We kept on rolling up the road to Edmundston, the only town of any considerable size before the Québec border. There, the French language was everywhere - most places, there was no sign in English.
Though the town was kind of dirty, reminding us of Elko, Nevada - and nothing about the parts of Elko that we saw was redeeming, except the fact that there were roads out - we had to have some lunch, so we got Subway. It was the most mediocre Subway sandwich I've ever eaten, and that's the nicest thing I can say aside from the fact that it didn't make me sick.
A few kilometers up the road and we entered Québec, the ninth province I've ever been in. It was then that the little English that we saw completely ran out, although we've learned enough through our Rosetta Stone lessons and from observing the bilingual signs in New Brunswick to get by.
We stopped in at the welcome center and talked to the young lady at the desk. We tried out our French phrases, finding that we're not nearly as bad as we though we were. Since most everyone has become bilingual, it wasn't that far removed from our experiences in Chéticamp.
It was in Québec that we crossed back over into Eastern Time, gaining an hour by going from 3:00 back to 2:00. The road also got worse, but the ruts and potholes were welcome, and although the brake was neither hot nor odd-smelling any time we checked it, it's still advisable to give them a good jostling every now and then.
In addition to the obligatory Useless Road Work, the roads after the border featured the most absurd hills, wherein the speed limit would switch from 110 km/h to 70 km/h, which is pretty much impossible when you have a car carrying our kind of weight - not to mention our current brake situation. The few policemen we saw didn't seem to care even when Québécois flew past going much faster than us.
A little after 3:00 we passed the village of St-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!, notable for being the only place name in the world to have not one, but two exclamation marks in its name. There are conflicting theories as to how this name came to be, and even the girl at the welcome center admitted to having no idea why the name is like it is.
We got our first glimpse of the St. Lawrence Seaway at around 3:45, turning westbound and paralleling it for the rest of the day as we approached Québec City. The road flattened, although mountains of considerable size were visible on the other side of the St. Lawrence. Most interestingly was the boardwalk between the highway and the Seaway, which saw use mostly from bicyclists.
At 5:30 we crossed over the bridge into Québec City, which was where the fun began. Traffic was backed up coming out of the city for a considerable distance, and we thought that we'd been able to avoid such a rush hour by coming into the city. But we got stuck in traffic, often boxed in by exceptionally tall trucks in front and Québécois who wanted to get to their respective destinations seemingly as much as we did.
The brakes got tested, but they came through as we inched our way through the heart of the congested city to our hotel. Dad wheeled and dealed his way through a snafu at the front desk and entertained the valet drivers outside. The result: two days in the same room at a cheaper price, with access to the executive lounge.
From our perch, we had a view of the Old City - a walled, fort-like, European-esque city that hugged the shore of the St. Lawrence Seaway, often said to be one of the most beautiful cities in North America. The people looked like ants from our altitude, so it was a good overview of the city.
After eating, we walked across the street to the Québec Parliament Building, modeled after the Louvre and extremely intricate and detailed. Statues and gardens abound outside of the building itself, and the statues that could be Yoderized were Yoderized.
We tried our best to avoid the school groups, but there were too many of them, and we kept lagging behind and catching up to a few of them. We walked down into the Old City, passing under the sally port into the heart of Old Québec.
It's basically like walking under a bridge in Canada and coming out in Europe. The difference is striking, as every building is unique, architecturally interesting, and old. Horse-drawn carriages clopped up and down the streets, and everything was just really interesting to look at. Nothing is boring in the Old City.
While somewhat long, it's not a wide city, and we were able to walk from the sally port to an area fairly close to the water in not a long time at all. We passed extraordinarily intricate statues and overly elaborate fountains, but for all its gaudiness, it fits together. It feels like you're actually in France as opposed to Québec.
After scoping out the sites we want to see tomorrow - including a funicular that takes folks right down the steep slope to the waterfront itself for only a nominal fee - we went back up the way we came. It was then that one of the most bizarre things happened: my dad greeted a maître d'hôtel outside a restaurant with a wave and a jovial "bon soir!" only to have her put out her hand out and give him an enthusiastic high-five. With her hand still held out, I received a high-five as well.
I'm still not sure why that happened, but she seemed happy enough, so we just sort of went with it.
We walked around back up to the sally port, only this time we walked up the steps and on top of the walls, which still are traversable around the city. We took the wall around and made it back to the hotel as the sun set, sampling the coffee maker in the lounge. It was good, but mine was quite tart, requiring four sugar packets of reasonable size to make it palatable. We even had an entire conversation in French, asking the friendly fellow who was in charge of closing the lounge down what time breakfast began and ended. It was short and likely not grammatically correct, but it was successful.
Tomorrow: a day on the town, with a thorough tour of Old Québec.


L'Isle Joyeuse

Posted by Sumiki , in The Great American Road Trip, Life Jun 10 2014 · 102 views

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After awakening in Charlottetown, we headed downtown to see the sights and nab some lunch. We got to a parking deck - they call them parkades in Canada - and walked around the downtown, although it was somewhat slowed by accounting for road work. We stopped in to exchange some more money at a bank since we were down to about twenty cents of hard Canadian currency.
Charlottetown is a really interesting city - it's not a big city by any means, so it's basically a big small town. Charlottetown's - and Prince Edward Island's - only real historical claim to fame is the Province House, where the Charlottetown Conference, which initially outlined the terms of what would become Canada, was held back in 1864, and where the PEI assembly still meets to this very day. Interestingly, PEI didn't join Canada until some time after, as they didn't quite like the initial terms of confederation. It was initially to discuss a Maritime union, but the province of Canada - present-day Ontario and Québec - invited themselves.
They've kept it up to its Victorian appearance, and it's as architecturally interesting as it is historically interesting. There wasn't a whole lot to see, but we picked the brains of the tour guides there.
Charlottetown is small. For the largest city in the province, any given street feels like it'd be at home in any small town. We walked down near the harbor, avoiding even more construction vehicles, and - most interestingly - walking behind a couple who were getting their marriage pictures taken, only to have a sudden gust of wind blow the marriage certificate out of the best man's hand towards us. (The certificate was retrieved without further incident.)
We walked back towards the middle of town and walked inside St. Paul Anglican Church. We were greeted by an older Newfoundlander on a scooter, with whom we chatted - not as much about the church itself, although the late 1890s structure was built with an intricate wooden ceiling that arched this way and that to resemble an upside-down ship - but about our travels and his travels.
The last vestiges of regret that we had about not going to Newfoundland or the French islands off its eastern coast were assuaged by that fellow, who said that nothing in Newfoundland looked any different than the Maritimes that we've explored for the past week, and that the only reason for going to St-Pierre et Miquelon was to "get your passports stamped" because there's pretty much nothing there.
After thanking him for his time (and ogling at the architecture of the church) we headed back out for lunch, just a few blocks up at Famous Peppers, a local pizza place. With no one there when we ate, we were able to take our time ordering and talking to the owner.
The pizzas were just delicious. We got three nine-inch pizzas: the Doctor, which had olives and tomatoes and a generous helping of feta cheese, the Cardigan, with a little heat to it from its ground beef, pepperoni, and bacon, and the Maple Chicken, which had a maple cream base instead of the usual tomato sauce. I was initially skeptical of this, but it was delicious ... well, the one slice I had was. I think my dad ate the rest of it. It was an interesting flavor - not too sweet, not too overpowering, but just enough to give it a unique flair. The lack of tomato sauce probably did as much for the flavor as the maple cream did, although according to the owner, many customers are willing to pay to get jars of the maple cream sauce.
We ate all but three slices of the Cardigan, which we packed up in a box for later with the promise that we would do what we could to open a Famous Peppers in North Carolina if they ever decide to franchise. The main problem with franchising is that they're sort of confined to Prince Edward Island as their menu is now, as they've made it so that everything that they can get fresh, they do. PEI isn't big, but it has a heck of a lot of farmland, and aside from specialty items such as the black olives, everything that goes into their pizzas is grown on the island.
Oh, and I did I mention the crust was excellent? I don't usually consider myself a crust kind of guy, but the crusts were off the charts.
With stomachs full and a pizza box half-full, we ambled back over to the parking de-excuse me, parkade and rolled on out, getting stuck at an intersection as a repaving team was inching - or is it centimetering? - their way along the cross street. They were causing all kinds of traffic problems because they didn't bother to put up a detour like, y'know, normal people, but we were nonetheless able to avoid them before they took a serious bite out of our time.
We weren't looking to get off the island quite yet; our destination was Prince Edward Island National Park, located along the north shore. We didn't have to pay to get in, as all of their facilities were closed, but that also meant that the park was almost completely deserted.
One of the first bits of the park we got to was Dalvay-by-the-Sea, a famous hotel built in the 1890s and kept up to its original appearance, including the absence of televisions. We didn't go in, but we took a look at it from the outside, which was enough to tell us why the Queen of England stays there during her visits to Prince Edward Island. Also apparently Will and Kate stayed there, but I feel like the only person in America who really doesn't care.
We walked out to the beach, which has some of the strangest beach scenery I've ever seen - it's like they took a slice from the middle of North Carolina, tore a jagged edge off of it, and plopped it down on any beach in the world. The result is downright bizarre - terrain full of rolling hills that just stops suddenly, the red clay visible underneath and spilling out onto the beach.
We went out and touched the Gulf of St. Lawrence, then retreated back to the regular land. With no hills, the beach features a cold wind, steady but not strong. Standing around was a little nippy.
There was little to do in the park aside from look at a few beaches, but they were enjoyable for the same bizarre characteristic of the land dropping off to the sea. We exited the park on the other side and worked our way down back to the Confederation Bridge via rural provincial routes that, aside from the usage of the Metric system and some confusing road sign placement, looked exactly like rural North Carolina. I know I keep mentioning it, but the resemblance is just way too uncanny.
We dumped out in Crapaud and arrived at a small community on the PEI side of the bridge, where we got out to stretch our legs, check the brakes (everything still sounds, looks, smells, and feels good), get an ornament for my mom's Collection, and try the one thing that was on my dad's PEI bucket list - eat Cow's Ice Cream, an institution in these parts. We found one with a gift shop, and got a small postcard that featured a cow dressed up like the Eleventh Doctor getting out of the TARDIS, with the logo above not as "Doctor Who," but "Doctor Moo."
Their gift shop was full of puns and parodies on bits of pop culture, featuring cow parodies of Gangnam Style, Duck Dynasty, Angry Birds, and more. The ice cream was delicious - all locally produced, just like the pizza - but I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had been a warm day. As it was, the chilly air blowing in from the Strait of Northumberland made me in more of a hurry to finish my ice cream than enjoy it.
We then steeled ourselves for the grand drive back over the Confederation Bridge, upon which there was, thankfully, no incident. We ran over a few small potholes to loosen anything stuck in the brake, and put the hammer down to Fredericton.
Other than a short precautionary brake check about eighty miles from Fredericton (everything was still good), we didn't stop, and got to our hotel before 8:00. Fredericton is a pretty old city, which means that the roads are just completely messed up - although they would be a lot easier to navigate if we were expecting half of the crazy things that popped up in our route, like a sudden massive incline in the road where all of the sudden the street went all San Francisco on us with no warning.
If this had been on the highway, we could have coasted, but there was a stoplight right in the middle of this incline. The brakes performed well - not as much as a peep from any of them - but they really should put a warning to gear down before the hill begins. It's a menace to society.
With a long day of driving and exploring behind us, we wanted nothing more than to sit down a while and eat at the hotel, so as to not have to drive anywhere anymore. I'd eaten the remaining slices of pizza - still good cold! - en route to Fredericton to stave off hunger, and I ended up eating nearly all of a burger that had what felt like an entire grocery store as a topping, which, rather predictably, ended up falling apart about halfway through. My parents split a club.
Afterwards, we explored the hotel a little bit, eventually stumbling on a baby grand piano at the end of a long hallway near the back of the building. It was a little out of tune, but I enjoyed getting my fingers back into shape. I played for about an hour and a half, playing previous recital pieces, renditions of 80s music, and improvising.
Tomorrow: We hug the Maine border up to Québec and into Québec City, completing our collection of provinces that can be accessed without ferry or unpaved road.


Groundhog Day

Posted by Sumiki , in Life, The Great American Road Trip Jun 09 2014 · 74 views

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We slept in today a little bit and ate our last meal at Hometown Kitchen, where we said our goodbyes to the waitresses. Dad went down the street a few times to check on the status of the part. James, the man at the service station, said that the part was in Sydney, the largest city on Cape Breton Island. However, there was a serious breakdown in communication between dealerships elsewhere in the Maritimes, and by midday we learned that the Sydney dealership didn't even have it.
After deliberation and debate in the room, and considering the fact that we hadn't heard or felt the brakes since James initially worked with them a few days prior, we decided to try to get back on the road. While we hated to leave Chéticamp without the part, since we'd extended our stay to get the part, James told us that if there was going to be a brake issue, we would have experienced it while driving around Chéticamp, and that we should have no trouble if we wanted to get on the road. He apologized immensely for snafus that were not his own, and insisted that we not pay him since he wasn't planning on paying for the part - one that, most likely, will never show.
With no guarantee that the part would get here tomorrow - or even any time in the coming week - we weighed the options and decided that there would be no harm in at least trying to leave Chéticamp, so we did so a little after 3:00, waving goodbye to the motel owner, a fellow named Ron, who came out of his office to bid us adieu.
Part of me will miss our little Acadian pied-à-terre, but we were all anxious to get back on the road. We'd seen all there was to see Chéticamp, all 3,000 people and no stoplights, beautiful sunsets and the sweetest folks this side of the Andy Griffith Show.
Nevertheless, much of our time on the road today was spent paying attention to that pesky back right wheel. We rolled all the way down the remaining portion of the Cabot Trail, re-linking with the Trans-Canada Highway along the Bras d'Or Lake. The same route we took from New Brunswick to Cape Breton was taken, only this time in reverse.
While the scenery was still beautiful, it was little compared to the vistas we saw in Cape Breton. We saw a bald eagle flying along the side of the road, then made it back over the Canso Causeway onto the Nova Scotia mainland - and this time, we didn't have to stop to let the bridge turn back around.
We used the brake as little as possible and hit whatever potholes we could, as James told us that hitting potholes could help to un-stick a stuck brake. Though it hasn't stuck since we stopped using the emergency brake, my dad maneuvered us into smaller potholes. He avoided the bigger ones, but it left him muttering "I'm trying to hit all the potholes ..." on multiple occasions, much to my amusement and mild whiplash.
Coming to the highlands of Cape Breton meant that we had to come up, and so too we had to come down. We rolled through Antigonish, and with everything nominal in the brake, we kept going through New Glasgow and Truro. The hills were immense, which led to another road-trip first: topping out the speedometer. With a speed limit of 110 km/h, it didn't take too much acceleration down the hill to top out the gauge at 140 before deceleration began.
We went back through the toll section and arrived in Amherst a little before 8:00. We exited and coasted into the town, stopping at the first place we saw - the very same Subway that we ate at when we were here a little over a week ago.
We used the opportunity to feel the brakes after five hours of highway driving. Not only was the offending brake not hot, it was actually - according to my dad - ever so slightly cooler than the other three, which were cool to the touch themselves. Sparing use of the brakes helped in this, but I'm beginning to think that it has much more to do with the emergency brake. My dad is now officially out of the habit of hitting it whenever we stop somewhere.
After a quick gas stop and some Mountain Dews for my dad and myself, we got back on the road bound for Prince Edward Island. While the sunsets are late in the Maritimes, they're still not places where one would want to drive at night if one could help it.
We crossed back over into New Brunswick and took the first exit - Trans-Canada Route 16, two deserted lanes filled with a pantheon of small potholes. I got jostled around a little bit, but it made my dad feel better about the brake situation.
It was then that we saw our first glimpse of the epic monstrosity known as the Confederation Bridge, the only road link to Prince Edward Island.
It's like a regular bridge, except eight miles long and terrifying.
It took about ten minutes to cross this bridge, and every one was a little nerve-wracking. Not for the bridge, but for the car - but we crossed over without incident, arriving in Prince Edward Island, the smallest province, at exactly 9:00 Atlantic time. Sunset had not yet ended.
But our journey was not yet over. Navigating the confusing signs in the rapidly decreasing sunlight was difficult enough, we still had another half an hour of driving ahead of us before getting to Charlottetown, the capital and largest city of PEI.
The scenery looks like North Carolina - eerily so, in fact. In addition to Charlottetown, we passed through a community called Tryon, saw a sign for a community with the same name as the street we used to live on, and pulled off for another brake check (everything was still good) on a road with the same name as the one we live on now. Factor in the scenery, which is like North Carolinian farmland with a little more redness in the dirt, and we felt strangely at home.
We pulled into the hotel at 9:41 and got a room. After over six hours of hard driving, the brakes still felt completely normal. The only difference was that the offending brake, when sniffed, smelled just a little bit different due to its re-greasing in Chéticamp.
Tomorrow: we explore the picturesque province of Prince Edward Island before heading back over the bridge to decrease our drive time to Québec in two days.


Déjà Vu

Posted by Sumiki , in The Great American Road Trip, Life Jun 08 2014 · 95 views

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We slept in and ate some brunch at the place that's become our local favorite - Hometown Kitchen. All the waitresses know us now, and they brought a whole butterscotch pie to the table to show us, with a promise that they'd save a slice for my dad. We ate well, and my dad enjoyed his pie. For the first time, I sampled a bite. It was alright, but compared to my beloved turtle cheesecake it was actually rather bland. Regardless of my opinion, it's their most popular dessert.
We did a little more of our French back at the room, then took some short naps. Upon awakening, we decided to do one the one thing left in Chéticamp we have not yet done - walk on the boardwalk, Quai Matheu, that runs along the water, paralleling the road, from roughly our hotel down to Wabo's Pizza, which we ate a few days ago.
The wind was brisk, but it was a nice walk, and surprisingly short. Upon our return, we did even more French - we're now 5/8ths through! - and then went back down to Hometown Kitchen for our sixth and penultimate time. We got pictures of Yoder with our two waitresses, saw a beautiful sunset, and ate more delicious crab legs. I got ten legs this time, and even though the last three or so cooled off by the time I got around to it, it was still excellent - and that is the sign of really good crab.
After saying our goodbyes to our friends there who won't be there tomorrow when we go there for breakfast, we headed back to the room to do more French and get ready for tomorrow.
Tomorrow: we hit the road again to Prince Edward Island, almost completing our collection of provinces that one can drive to without going on a ferry or unpaved road.


Quotes from the Road

Posted by Sumiki , in Other Stuff, Sumiki's Dad, The Great American Road Trip, twiggy Jun 08 2014 · 65 views

by Sumiki's Dad
"A twerked naval never exits."
"Nasal passages: what a concept!"
"Jello shoes: squishy and delicious."
"I like botulism - especially in a six-pack."


Je Ne Sais Quoi

Posted by Sumiki , in Life, The Great American Road Trip Jun 07 2014 · 113 views

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We went out to have lunch at the same place we had lunch for the past two days. My dad got Steak on a Stick (with rice!) and my mom and I got two different kinds of fish and chips. For dessert, I had the turtle cheesecake again, while my dad fell in love with a butterscotch pie topped with a massive amount of meringue.
The weather was nasty today - all wind and rain and fog and chill. We spent most of our time indoors as possible.
After doing some Rosetta Stone French back in the room, we went back to the National Park side of Chéticamp to visit the Hooked Rug Museum. Hooked rugs, made by slipping yarn through stretched burlap in patterns not dissimilar to a gigantic cross-stitch, are a Chéticamp specialty, and most of the examples in the museum were stunning. Considered works of art as opposed to items to walk on, many were amazingly intricate, using miles of yarn hand-died in up to 400 different colors just for one rug. The time-consuming nature of this meant that the largest rugs - such as ones depicting the Crucifixion and the Resurrection - took a year of work to make each.
Mural-esque rugs depicted a collage of scenery from U.S. and Canadian history, including one that featured the heads of every Canadian Prime Minister (until about 1960) and every U.S. President (until about 1960). The artist of much of the rugs in the museum hand-made them up until her death, and her work has been featured in the White House, the Vatican, and Buckingham Palace.
I found the Prime Minister with the best name - a fellow named Diefenbaker, who has a lake in Saskatchewan named after him - and took a picture with Yoder the Duck next to his immense forehead.
After engrossing ourselves in the beauty of these rugs for about an hour, talking to the Acadians who staffed the place, and getting an ornament for my mom's Collection, we went back, did a little more French, then went back out for dinner - again at the same place. This time, I got some crab legs - and they were some of the most juicy things ever. If crabs had bones, this meat would have fallen right off them.
I had another slice of my beloved Turtle Cheesecake, but my dad was out of luck - the place had ran out of butterscotch pie for the day. Saddened, he drowned his disappointment in sugar-packet-laden coffee.
(Side note: I think my mom is tired, as she's been scattered for most of the day. While in the car, she thought that it was in the shop, and called out to it ... while she was sitting in the back seat as we rolled down the main street. After repeated spastic moments during our French sessions, we decided to keep her from messing with the laptop controls. She also dropped a whole sugar packet - paper and all! - into her then-black coffee.)
We finished up our French, so we're now halfway done with the course (and we know some basic parts of a conversation before we hit Québec).
Tomorrow: our last full day in Chéticamp as our unexpected stay begins to draw to a close.

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He's the lord of all strangeness. - Ignika: Nerd of Life

How awesome is Sumiki on a scale of 1 to 10? - Waffles
42. - Black Six

[He's] the king of wierd, the prince of practicality, the duke of durr! - Daiker

Sumiki is magic. - Cholie

Sumiki says, "Do I creeeeeeep you out?" Yes, he does. - Waffles

Sumiki is a nub. He's cool, but he's still a nub. - Ran Yakumo

"What is a Sumiki?" You may ask. But the answer to that is still unknown, even to the Sumiki itself. - Daiker


Sumiki is best snickerdoodle. - Takuma Nuva

BZPower = Sumiki + McSmeag + B6. And Hahli Husky. - Vorex

What's a Sumi? Does it taste good? - Janus

I would have thought Sumiki wanted to reincarnate as a farm animal. - Kraggh


Sumiki: the horse_ebooks of bzp - VampireBohrok

Everything relates to Sumiki. No really, everything. - Daiker

He's in worse mental condition than I thought. - Obsessionist

I'm just wondering why I'm looking at some cat dancing ... I suppose the answer would simply be "Sumiki." - Brickeens

I was like a beast, screaming through the mind of Sumiki at the speed of sound. I.. I wasn't strong enough to stop myself. What I saw was the end of infinity, through which one can see the beginning of time, and I will never be the same. - Portalfig

I imagine the 13th Doctor will be rather like Sumiki, at the rate we're going. - rahkshi guurahk

I was quite sure Sumiki had another set of arms stashed somewhere. - Bfahome

Note to future self: don’t try to predict Sumiki, he’s unpredictable. - Voltex

Let's be honest, I would totally have picked my main man Sumiki to lead my goose-stepping night killers anyway. We tight like that, yo. - Xaeraz

10/10, would Sumiki again. - Bfahome


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Every week, I post a new "Tuesday Tablescrap", a small MOC not worthy of a topic, but something to post and inspire me to build more.

10/25/11 - Duplo Flower
11/1/11 - Slender Man and Masky
11/8/11 - Bizarre Black Spaceship
11/15/11 - 2001 Monolith

11/22/11 - My Little Slizer 50
11/29/11 - Punching Bag
12/6/11 - Thunder and Escorts
12/13/11 - Three Concepts
12/20/11 - Kaxium Alternate
12/27/11 - None (Christmas Break)

1/3/12 - Daiker
1/10/12 - None
1/17/12 - Volant
1/24/12 - Nidman's Chute Shoop Shop
1/31/12 - None (Brickshelf down)
2/7/12 - None
2/14/12 - Atomic Lime
2/21/12 - Spearhead
2/28/12 - Glatorian Kahi
3/6/12 - Seeker
3/13/12 - Skyscraper
3/20/12 - Microphone
3/27/12 - Toa Vultraz
4/3/12 - Flammenwerferjüngeres
4/10/12 - Umbrella
4/17/12 - Lime Beetle
4/24/12 - Special - Flame Sculpture
5/1/12 - None (BZPower down)
5/8/12 - Purple Ninja
5/15/12 - The Original Sumiki
5/22/12 - 7/24/12 - None
7/31/12 - Tahu
8/7/12 - None (BrickFair)
8/14/12 - Special - Chess Set
8/21/12 - Heavily Armored Wasp
8/28/12 - Spaceship Drill
9/4/12 - Scuba Vehicle
9/11/12 - Orange Guy
9/18/12 - Strange Flying Thing
9/25/12 - Goblet
10/2/12 - None
10/9/12 - Aim .............................. Down
10/16/12 - Gold Bot
10/23/12 - Teal Mech
10/30/12 - Special - Teal Mech (#2)
11/6/12 - Bits and Pieces
11/13/12 - Two Spaceships
11/20/12 - TARDIS Interior
11/27/12 - Christmas Creep
12/4/12 - Toaraga
12/11/12 - Fireplace
12/18/12 - Abstract Duckling
12/25/12 - None (Christmas)
1/1/13 - Black Bot
1/8/13 - 1/22/13 - None
1/29/13 - Handheld Rhotuka Launcher
2/5/13 - 8/6/13 - None
8/13/13 - The Hinklebot
8/20/12 - Special - Post-Apocalyptic Piyufi

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Formerly known as the Bring Back Teal Club, the Unused Colors Society is a club that serves to promote colors that are little-used or discontinued, such as teal, old purple, or metallic blue.




ToM Dracone
-Toa Lhikevikk-
Dirk Strider
Toa Flappy
Lime Paradox
Toa Robert
The X
Dave Strider
Akuna Toa of Sonics
Commander Helios
Popup2: The Camel
~Shadow Kurahk~
~System Of A Down~
Kohrak Kal17
Jackson Lake
Thunder on the Mountain
Ackar's Follower
Bitter Cold
Doc Scratch
Mendicant Bias
Darth Eryzeth
Toa of Vahi
Makuta GigaDon
~Toa Drokonas~
Progenitus Worldsoul
Toa Kuhrii Avohkii
Bohrok Kal
Toa Neya 2011 Edition
~prisma son of dawn~
.: WoLVeRINe :.
Alternate Velika
Schnee 1
Brickeens (again!?)
The Great Forgetter
Thomas the Tank Engine
Jonah Falcon
Oh my miru
Element lord Of Milk.
Lexuk Toa Of Insanity
Michael J. Caboose
knuckles chaotix
The Bean
Lord Kaitan de Storms
Toa of Dancing
Toa Arzaki
The Oncoming Storm
Lego Obsessionist
Toa of Pumpkin
Teal Armada
Toa Zehvor Blackout
Mr. M
Mylo Xyloto
Lord of Ice
Gamzee Makara
Zarayna: The Quiet Light



Vorex: Keeper of Time


Toa of Smooth Jazz



Dual Matrix

rahkshi guurahk
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If you learn one thing in life, learn this:

You should never, ever question why demons would possess a soda.

just a heads up - Cthulhu would probably eradicate mankind before bringing back Bionicle
so yeah, all I'm saying is, please think twice about this okay

nothing gets democracy flowing like erratic capitalizatION

[the NSA] couldn't say no when I offered them an ostrich farm in exchange

Sumiki -- nice try but we all know Toa Mata Nui stuffs its bra




You have a great understanding of history, but don't forget, war, murder and other poor decisions are also huge characteristics.

Also a long line of really great hats.

Shhh, I'm trying to focus on the negative to justify my dislike of history.

have we mentioned hats

To be fair, I am the one responsible for the invention of Mafia in the 1320s by seventeen bored italians locked in a mine shaft.
It's a long story.


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