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Room of 10,000 Towels

Posted by Sumiki , in Life, The Great American Road Trip Jun 12 2014 · 90 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.



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2001: A Hotel Odyssey

Posted by Sumiki , in Life, The Great American Road Trip Jun 11 2014 · 61 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.



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L'Isle Joyeuse

Posted by Sumiki , in The Great American Road Trip, Life Jun 10 2014 · 105 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.



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Groundhog Day

Posted by Sumiki , in Life, The Great American Road Trip Jun 09 2014 · 80 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.



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Déjà Vu

Posted by Sumiki , in The Great American Road Trip, Life Jun 08 2014 · 99 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.



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Quotes from the Road

Posted by Sumiki , in Other Stuff, Sumiki's Dad, The Great American Road Trip, twiggy Jun 08 2014 · 71 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."




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Je Ne Sais Quoi

Posted by Sumiki , in Life, The Great American Road Trip Jun 07 2014 · 118 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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Rocky Road

Posted by Sumiki , in Life, Sumiki's Dad, The Great American Road Trip Jun 06 2014 · 73 views

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We got up groggily. My dad got up to see if the service station had a part from Sydney. They did not, but we were cleared to drive around the greater Chéticamp area from the edge of Cape Breton Highlands National Park down to a little beyond the edge of Chéticamp. Our brakes sounded no different than they had previously on the trip. Without using the emergency brake, we were initially pretty confident that we could limp along back to the States ... but if we broke down on what remains of the Cabot Trail and back off Cape Breton Island, we don't have a towing option - even less so on the weekend.
 
All of Chéticamp's businesses and half of the houses are on one road - the Cabot Trail - that acts as its main street. Everyone knows everyone else, and while nearly everyone communicates in French as the default, everyone is also bilingual. English speakers are initially regarded with a slight air of contempt, but we endear ourselves to them with our attempts at trying to speak their language.
 
With the car cleared for local excursions, we drove south from Chéticamp and drove over onto Chéticamp Island, which parallels the town. We went as far as the pavement did before turning around, but we could see the entirety of Chéticamp.
 
We turned back and ate some massive sandwiches at All Aboard Restaurant, sampling the local custom of putting vinegar on their fries (which made my dad's eyes cross because he put a little too much vinegar on a tiny fry). We split their strawberry shortcake and got some advice from the waitress, who told us of a lighthouse on the other side of Chéticamp Island. While she said that it was a dirt road, she also said that it was in good condition.
 
My parents took a nap in the room, waking up around 4:00 or so and ready for the lighthouse. We took the same road over to Chéticamp Island and turned onto the dirt road.
 
At first, the road wasn't bad. It wasn't great, but one could see well-wore tracks with less gravel. But as we passed over a small cattle crossing, the road conditions worsened considerably. Potholes filled up with muddy water, huge rocks shook the car back and forth, and gravel made up the rest of the slanted road - all not but a few feet higher than the water that was a little too close for comfort.
 
We had to turn back, but not before going up and then back down a hill - which wasn't fun for anyone involved.
 
You have no idea how much of a relief pavement feels after that.
 
With a newfound awareness that the Chéticamp folks' idea of a dirt road differs significantly from our idea of a dirt road, we doubled back towards the town, stopping for some supplies at a small convenience store/music shop, a local institution. The man who ran it had heard of us, saying "so you're the folks with the black car ..."
 
We're becoming famous in Chéticamp.
 
We purchased some more water, a can opener so my dad can get into the Coca-Cola bottles he got yesterday, and a cream soda, purchased on the advice of the tow truck driver, who remarked that the blueberry soda tasted like "blueberries mixed with cream soda." I'm drinking it now, and it tastes like liquid cookie dough. It's delicious.
 
This also marked the first time in my life that I've seen bagged milk. I'd heard stories about Canadians purchasing their milk in bags, and it's just as ridiculously impractical in person. I cannot for the life of me understand how bagged milk is of any advantage to the consumer.
 
Back on the road up Chéticamp, we stopped at the church, which we'd heard had a gorgeous interior but kept weird times. The steeple is visible throughout the area, and the inside didn't disappoint.
 
It looked much more like a church interior from a large and affluent city, not the Acadian Mayberry of Chéticamp. Gold leaf was everywhere and everything was extraordinarily intricate. We walked around, then went up to the balcony to see a bird's-eye view of the stunning chapel and to look at the organ, which appears to still use a hand-cranked bellows system. Lifelike statues of saints look down from alcoves, massive murals adorn available spaces, and everything just feels so vast and grand.
 
After ogling sufficiently at this architectural marvel - built stone-by-stone in the 1890s - we went back through Chéticamp and through to the other side, back into Cape Breton Highlands National Park. We stopped right before the great big mountain that was the site of the beginning of our problems. We went down to the ocean and dipped our hands into the waves. I was surprised at how warm this portion of the north Atlantic is, as I'd always envisioned it as cold almost year-round.
 
We hiked up the short but steep trail to the overlook at the top of a large rock, but we couldn't see too much from the top - especially compared to the vistas we could see on the Skyline trail yesterday.
 
We headed back to the car and double-backed into town, stopping at Hometown Restaurant, where we had our 4:00, post-Skyline lunch yesterday. We ate light, with individual salads (their Caesar is one of the best I've ever had - croutons that aren't bread-rocks and just the right amount of garlic), a lobster dip, and a slice of turtle cheesecake. All three are worth a third trip on their own.
 
(My dad and I ordered tea, since they had decent sweet tea before. Unfortunately, we're used to iced tea being the default, and so we were rather shocked when our waitress brought out steaming pitchers. We rectified this, but it was quite the faux pas on our part.)
 
We ended up talking to the owner/chef a while about various things. My dad's still trying to rope me into playing the piano at one of these restaurants - there are a surprising number of them here! - to help pay for our time in Chéticamp (although, amazingly, our Cape Breton experience will come out significantly under budget). We also learned that the reason the fellow earlier knew about our car is because one of the folks at the repair shop is quite the gossip and tells stories about folks who had come through to most anyone who will listen.
 
At the conclusion of this light supper, we got a second dessert just a little ways down the street at a place called Mr. Chicken, which has - according to the Hometown owner/chef - the best ice cream in Canada. Coming from a woman who has been all across Canada, we decided to give it a whirl.
 
My dad had a milkshake, but my mom and I got the maple walnut. Though we got the smallest size - a "baby bite," as they were called - they were easily a half-pint each. When they said "baby bite," I thought they meant a bite for a baby, not one the size of a baby.
 
With the days' adventures concluded, we headed back to our room.
 
The brakes didn't act up. We probably could make it at least as far as Antigonish, perhaps all the way home. But it's a long rural drive from here in Chéticamp all the way to the Prince Edward Island ferry, and tow trucks don't operate on the weekends. Though the thought that we could make it is still there, we know it's best not to push our luck.
 
If the part doesn't get here by Monday, though, we're going to get out of Chéticamp. As nice as this little place is, we still have a schedule to keep.
 
Tomorrow: another day on the town in Chéticamp.



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Breakdown Cruise

Posted by Sumiki , in Life, The Great American Road Trip Jun 05 2014 · 75 views

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The man from the repair shop knocked on our door at about 10:00 to tell us that our brake had been fixed. My dad went down the street to get it, as my mom and I packed up in the room. The problem was in the emergency brake, and we were told that we should be good as long as we remembered not to use it.
 
We set out back up the Cabot Trail, retracing our steps almost to the site of the brake-flame. Our destination was the gorgeous Skyline Trail, an almost five-mile trail on the top of French Mountain, overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Cabot Trail itself as it winds its way down the next mountain over towards Chéticamp.
 
The walk there was uneventful - lots of woods, even more moose droppings. We didn't see any wildlife, save for two small light brown ground squirrels and one small gray snake. That was just fine by me - I've already seen bear and moose from the safety of the car, and I have no intent of ever seeing one without the protection of a motor vehicle.
 
The trees cleared and we walked out on the boardwalk overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean ... but the fog had rolled in. Fog comes into the area around Chéticamp very rarely and we'd heard that the conditions can change suddenly at the series of viewing areas, so we waited.
 
We sat down and waited, occasionally stretching our legs out, for the better part of an hour. Just as the wait became unbearable, the fog began to lift around the mountains, slinking back along the water.
 
We were above the clouds, The long tip of the mountain, jutting out towards the Gulf of St. Lawrence, was completely clear, as were the peaks surrounding it. One could see the Cabot Trail as it wound around the mountain, down into the clouds and then back up again.
 
It was a wonderful view.
 
We stayed there for a long while, thinking that the fog might just break so we could see a bit of the ocean, but it never did. Once the locals started turning back, so did the few tourists - including a family from Orlando, who we talked to for a while. I took a few group shots on their camera for them and they did the same for us.
 
It was a long haul back. It's one of those trails that just sort of feels uphill both ways, and once we knew what we had ahead of us, with nothing to look forward to, and no fog to keep things cool, it was a slow haul back to the car. But get there we did, and we set back off down the Cabot Trail towards Chéticamp in low gear.
 
We stopped at every available pull-off, making sure not to hit the emergency brake. The brakes seemed fine, didn't smoke, and didn't smell bad. But as we headed into Chéticamp, the brakes sounded bad - specifically, that back right one that had had all the problems. As we pulled into a restaurant parking lot, the brake sounded like a muffled scream mixed with the sound of fingernails on a blackboard.
 
Hoping that the brakes were just overheating, we ate a late lunch. My dad split after he ate in order to drive the car down the street to get looked at by the same folks who took care of it earlier. My dad, meanwhile, limped back on down to the service station. By this point, he said that the brake was smoking again.
 
My mom and I got out of the restaurant and walked another mile or so to the service station, where we got the scoop: the brake was not totally disengaging. It was too late to call the dealership in Sydney, the nearest major city, so they will do that in the morning.
 
We walked down another block, got a room at the same motel as last night, and crashed.
 
Tomorrow: If the dealership in Sydney has the brake part we need, our car will be fixed by 2:00 and we can get farther down the road closer to the Prince Edward Island ferry. If not, we may have to patch it back up and see if we can limp down the road to Antigonish, which has a dealership.



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The Fault in Our Car

Posted by Sumiki , in Life, The Great American Road Trip Jun 04 2014 · 86 views

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We began the day at the Alexander Graham Bell museum, along the Cabot Trail around Baddeck. We thought it'd be interesting to poke around - after all, we figured it'd be mostly about the making of the telephone. As it turned out, Graham's life and inventions far surpassed the telephone - as a noted teacher of the deaf and proponent of his father's system for teaching deaf students to speak.
 
In fact, what was most striking was that the museum didn't talk all that much about the telephone - a good chunk of it was dedicated to the Silver Dart, the first manned flight in the British Empire, flown not far from the site of the museum. Bell assisted in the creation of the Silver Dart, and lived a short distance from Baddeck.
 
Bell's forward-thinking spirit and childlike enthusiasm for tinkering meant that he ended up producing tons of prototypes, some of which were almost a century ahead of their time. Bell actually produced the first cell phone - similar to his telephone prototype, only that the electrical signals were sent via light. Though he called it his greatest invention, it would have been impossible to commercialize at the turn of the century. Still, the principle of bouncing electromagnetic waves around to send signals sans wires was the same one behind the invention of the cell phone.
 
After a lively walk around and new information in our heads, we started of on the glorious Cabot Trail and began the great loop around Cape Breton Island. The road conditions were somewhat poor to start off, but improved immensely once we entered Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
 
We poked around the nearly deserted visitor center and then entered the all-but-deserted park. We stopped at the pull-offs and traversed some of the smaller trails ... but the trails gave us worse views than from the road, so eventually we decided to stick to the places that we knew we could see stuff from. The fresh bear droppings along our first trail kept us on our toes - or, should I say, in the car.
 
Rain and mist came in and out, on and off, for most of the day. Hungry, we stopped at a place featured on the Canadian equivalent of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, a show called You Gotta Eat Here - Coastal Restaurant in Ingonish, a place that did a pretty good job at advertising its television appearance. I got the burger that was featured on the show - the Ringer Burger - which is piled with onion rings and some kind of sweet honey barbecue sauce. It looked a lot bigger than it really was due to the onion rings, but it was still quite filling.
 
We headed back on the Cabot Trail, winding in and out of the park. Most of the prettiest scenery on the Trail was on the other side, which we got to as we turned and began heading north and back down on the north edge of Nova Scotia.
 
Of course, this is the time that Murphy's Law began to kick in.
 
We began a slow climb up a mountain, stopping at the ample pull-off areas for breathtaking panoramas of the seascape and landscape - the Trail far below, mountains above, valleys with small babbling brooks, and the Atlantic Ocean, stretching out until it met the sky.
 
At the second of these pull-offs, my dad said that he felt the car acting funny - like it wasn't rolling all the way. He chalked it up to trying to start from 0 on an incline with a lot of weight in the trunk ... that is, until we got to the next pull-off. Something smelled kind of funny, and sure enough, our back right tire was smoking slightly.
 
We figured that it just got a little hot while going up and down massive inclines, so we stopped for a good while until it had stopped smoking and no longer radiated heat. I kept an eye on it in the rearview mirror and my mom kept her window down so she could smell it if it started smoking again.
 
Without any signs of trouble, we reached the next pull-off. My dad slowed the car down, put the emergency brake on, and we all heard a pop. The next thing we knew, smoke was coming out of the brake apparatus anew, and my mom briskly warned us that there was a small fire.
 
I launched out of the car and threw what remained of my water bottle on the tire, which steamed up. We dumped quite a bit of our water supply on the tire. It was still hot when we were done, but the fire and smoke had gone out. The smell, as thick in the air as the midges we would come to hate, was still there.
 
It's at times such as these when faith in humanity is restored, for half a dozen different cars rolled up to see if we were fine. We must have been quite a sight - three folks gesturing and talking around a tire with a veritable puddle around it. We met a family from Salt Lake City visiting a family member in Maine, who took my dad down to an emergency call box two kilometers down the Trail. (We had tried OnStar, our cell phone, and the cell phones of anyone else who had offered help, all to no avail. There's no reception on the Cabot Trail.)
 
We met a independently-minded older lady from Austin out on a free-wheeling road trip of her own. She didn't know where she would end up before turning back, but was thinking about hopping on the ferry to Newfoundland. She offered us fruit and water, but we assured her that we had plenty of supplies.
 
The Salt Lake City folks returned and my dad emerged from their small sedan. We thanked them profusely for their trouble and offered to pay them, but they refused. He'd contacted a tow truck in Chéticamp, where we were originally planning to spend the night anyway. We had to wait another hour or so, but we spent it talking to the families that drove up to offer us their help.
 
Eventually a man came up from Pleasant Bay, a little village that we'd gone through at the base of the mountain upon which all of these events transpired. Interested in the car - as many guys who know cars are - he poked around and posited a few theories as to the origin of the fire. Whatever it is, it will likely be a pretty easy fix, even if they have to bring in parts from Sydney - which is just a few hours' drive away along the northeast edge of Nova Scotia.
 
Eventually, the tow truck came barreling up the mountain, right before we were totally eaten alive by the pesky and ever-curious midges. We gave the driver a brief rundown of the situation, and my dad drove the car up onto the bed.
 
Unfortunately, the cab was even smaller than the one we all had to cram into in Texas last year. We were all crammed into an area of about one and a half seats. We maneuvered around to the least uncomfortable position in the cab, to the amusement of the driver. I was originally going to sit equally on parents' laps, but to do that, I would have had to basically lean over because my head wouldn't fit upright. So I got the other window seat, my dad was in the middle, and my mom sat halfway.
 
This meant that there was no room for seat belts. My mom leaned over onto my dad or myself depending on the curve. We were packed into that cab like Sardines playing Twister, and we were keeping the driver laughing by cracking jokes left and right. By the time we had traversed the most scenic parts of the Cabot Trail and made it into Chéticamp, our driver felt like an old friend.
 
We rolled into the small repair shop, met a fellow with green teeth, and got a ride to the motel just up the street. I had my reservations (no pun intended) at first ... but this place is actually pretty nice. People up here put pride into what they do. It's a small-town kind of feel without Americana ... Canadiana, perhaps?
 
For dinner, we walked a little ways down the street and ate at the restaurant adjoining the Harbor Inn. It was good food and good ambiance - I ended up with the haddock, with some kind of dill sauce on the side. Dessert was fried ice cream. All in all, not our best meal, but it was excellent. (My dad ordered his first beer in 32 years.)
 
Tomorrow: depending on the car situation, we'll either get a little farther down the road (after backtracking to see what we missed on the last little stretch of the Cabot Trail) or staying in Chéticamp another night. At most, we'll spend just one more night in this sleepy little town, but that would be unexpected.







    

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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


LISTEN TO SUMIKI - Cholie


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


EAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH - Kakaru


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

     

Sumiki
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Group: Premier Forum Assistants
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Member No.: 45057
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25th All-Time Poster

15th All-Time Premier Poster
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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
8/20/13 - Special - Post-Apocalyptic Piyufi
8/27/13 - 8/5/14 - None
8/12/14 - Another Chro Original
8/19/14 - Kanohi Zatth
8/26/14 - Miniland Hatpile

    

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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.

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Leaders:
Sumiki
Waffles

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xccj
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(((DARKNESS)))
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DeepFriedZombies
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GUYUGKUYG
Toa Flappy
Lime Paradox
McSpit
RotationalBasis
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chunkeh!
Toa Robert
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WORT WORT WORT
~Toa Drokonas~
Kwydjybo
Progenitus Worldsoul
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.: WoLVeRINe :.
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Carnifex
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SquishyFrog
Ynot
qUESTIE
SonicBOOM XS
Tavakai
Schnee 1
Brickeens (again!?)
Kakaru
The Great Forgetter
Kylus
Thomas the Tank Engine
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~MatoroIgnika~
Vocals
Oh my miru
Element lord Of Milk.
e=mc^2
Lexuk Toa Of Insanity
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knuckles chaotix
The Bean
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Lord Kaitan de Storms
Jaicho
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/Got_Your_6/
ZamorBob
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Toa Arzaki
The Oncoming Storm
Darkrylles
Lego Obsessionist
Toa of Pumpkin
christo1096
Unit#phntk#1
Teal Armada
Toa Zehvor Blackout
Mr. M
Chibinuva
Vohon
Mylo Xyloto
Lord of Ice
Celu
Architect
Rix
.:ENCRYPTION:.
~~Zarkan~~
TornadoToad
Fantasia
Gamzee Makara
Zarayna: The Quiet Light

Paleo

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Vorex: Keeper of Time

Roablin

Toa of Smooth Jazz

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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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