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Sumiki's Dad: Snippets of Wisdom

Posted by Sumiki , in Life, Sumiki's Dad, twiggy Jul 28 2014 · 59 views

"All major credit cards and many more minor credit scams are accepted ... or bring a goat and some cheese to sample instead."

"Try it on for size! Or grab a lovely Peruvian hat and dance on a tomato!"

"You can take time to poison some wayward pigeons or millipedes while you read."



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Tales of Colonel Nit-Wit

Posted by Sumiki , in The Great American Road Trip, Sumiki's Dad, Life Jun 17 2014 · 62 views

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We left the New Jersey hotel before noon and almost immediately got turned around due to the fact that there were two possible routes out of New Jersey towards Valley Forge. We ended up paying a toll and crossing over into Pennsylvania - and, like New Jersey, Pennsylvania has no welcome sign.
 
The roads to Valley Forge were long and tedious. Somewhere along the line we ran into a section that was just plain awful - the four lanes of the road literally slanted into each other, so much so that, if there had been two eighteen-wheelers in the middle two lanes, the inwards slant of the road would have made the tops of their trailers collide. We did not see very many trucks on this particular stretch, which was practically the only good thing one could say about it, as it featured every highway atrocity from lane-wide potholes to lanes that were cut off for road construction completely without warning.
 
Yet we were as determined as ever to get to Valley Forge, and get to Valley Forge we did, but not after seeing two of the most bizarre road signs on the continent within a half-hour of each other: "Beware of Aggressive Drivers" and "No Shoulder Next 1540 Feet."
 
The visitor center (and film) at Valley Forge didn't include any historical information we didn't already know, but it felt good to walk around and stretch our legs for a bit. But with the temperature outside at over 90 degrees, most of our walking was confined to air-conditioned establishments.
 
We took the driving tour around Valley Forge, which, again, wasn't much - nothing original of the encampment remains and attempts at determining the precise location of various huts and bases is nearly impossible. Nevertheless, the driving tour took us through some gorgeous countryside, passing ornate monuments to the generals who wintered there and faithful reconstructions of the log cabins the various regiments built for winter quarters.
 
After Valley Forge, we got onto US 202, which was atrocious. The stop-and-go traffic in the right lane - awful on brakes even in the best of conditions - was augmented by traffic going well over the speed limit in the left - and in a work zone, no less! The good news was that we didn't have to spend but two miles on this road before reaching our exit onto US 30, upon which we made good time.
 
We rolled through small town after small town, looking for something to eat ... and literally everything was on the other side of the road - an impossibility, even when a middle lane was available, due to the veritable horde of drivers coming in the opposite direction.
 
Eventually - finally - we see a Chick-Fil-A on that side of the road. With rumbling stomachs and no guarantee that there'd be any palatable food options for miles ahead, we got three chicken sandwiches and soon were continuing on our merry way - but not before we got a report from my mom, who said that the women's restroom contained, in addition to its hand-sensing squirt-contraptions that produce soap and hand sanitizer upon appropriate requests, a third hand-sensing squirt-contraption that produced mouthwash.
 
I see this as one of those things that would likely work only in theory.
 
We crossed over the wide Susquehanna River, saw a number of diners, and crossed through a number of traffic circles, which have been the bane of our existence on this particular trip.
 
We took US 30 to the outskirts of Gettysburg, where we took US 15 down to Maryland. We spent less than an hour in Maryland before we crossed into Virginia, which is where things really got hilarious, for my dad spun a tale of Colonel Nit-Wit, played by himself, and Major Half-Wit, played by myself, as well as a cavalcade of stars, including:
 
• Corporal Gilbert, whose lips were attached to his earlobe
• Miss Left Foot, who didn't have a right foot
• Sergeant Stumpy, who didn't have a left foot (although his right foot was later removed and put onto Miss Left Foot, and Stumpy ended up attached to the back of Corporal Gilbert)
• Sergeant Hamster, who looks like a hamster
• Lieutenant Claude, a possum in disguise
 
The interactions and voices of these characters had us in stitches from the state line all the way through to our eventual stop, to the point that my dad had a little bit of trouble snapping out of the aristocratic southern accent that he used to portray Colonel Nit-Wit.
 
We stopped in Leesburg at a hotel that didn't have any rooms, but, as according to one of the patrons, who came from a room while we were walking out, also didn't have hot water. With enough light to get farther down the road, we did so, and ended up pulling into Warrenton a short while later, procuring one of the last rooms at the hotel we're in now.
 
After we checked in, we needed something to eat, so we went down the road a little ways and pulled into the first thing that looked decent - an Applebee's. Like earlier, not our first choice for a road-trip meal, but it had to do.
 
It would have been quite pleasant had the not had the worse karaoke in world history been going on in one corner, including a Conway Twitty song.
 
I would have preferred listening to the original Conway Twitty.
 
I would have preferred listening to rap.
 
I would have preferring listening to the complete works of Anton von Webern.
 
I was under the impression that my dad was one of the worst singers until I experienced the horror of that karaoke. Compared to them, he sounds like an American Idol winner.
 
My mom wolfed down her salad, my dad consumed his steak, and I inhaled my interesting quesadilla burger, all in an attempt to get out of the pure and unavoidable torture that was being inflicted on both us and all of the other patrons, coming from other side of the building.
 
Thankfully, we escaped, unpacking and settling down in our room, my dad talking in his Colonel Nit-Wit voice to himself even while in the shower. (I know the folks in the other rooms can hear him when he does this, but after 26 days on the road, I've stopped caring.)
 
Tomorrow: we get back home.



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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 · 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."




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Rocky Road

Posted by Sumiki , in Life, Sumiki's Dad, The Great American Road Trip Jun 06 2014 · 70 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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Bforoad

Posted by Sumiki , in BIONICLE/LEGO, BZPower, HATPILE, Life, Sumiki's Dad, The Great American Road Trip May 30 2014 · 116 views

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We explored our Mount Washington hotel thoroughly. We saw the Gold Room, where the setting up of and signing of the International Monetary Fund took place, and a few old fuses - well, I thought they were old. It turns out that the fuses, part of the original wiring put in by Thomas Edison, were actually still partially in use.
 
Honestly it sounds like a fire hazard, but I'm not an electrician.
 
We decided to skip the treacherous Mount Washington Auto Road due to the fact that it's a private road that doesn't have guardrails, and doing so in a car that has well over 100,000 miles on it and has just come off of its fifth road-trip repair in three years is just kind of asking for trouble, especially when the road is notorious for burning out transmissions and brakes.
 
It was just as well, since that was well out of our route.
 
We worked our way through sleepy towns in rural New Hampshire as we wormed our way back down amidst the towering granite faces of the mountains. As we kept on the route to Portland - towards the stadium of the Portland Sea Dogs (or, as my dad called them, the "Portland Dog Drips") - the towns increased in size and had signs that designated earlier and earlier dates of incorporation.
 
The roads leveled out as we neared the Maine border, but we could still look back and see mountains - some still with traces of snow near their peaks.
 
Conway was one of the towns we passed through, and its quirks included a motel with different "themes" for each room like storefronts in the Old West as well as bizarrely funny shop names.
 
Around 12:30 we entered Maine, and got some literature at the welcome center from a guy who was born in North Carolina but moved to Maine when he was young. He'd long since lost any southern accent he might have once had, replacing it with a thick northeastern accent that turned "Bar Harbor" into "Bah Hahbah" and "Bangor" into "Bangah." I didn't hear anything close to that in Boston, where I thought I would.
 
The potholes got really bad as soon as we crossed the Maine border. Only a few were absolutely unavoidable - the fault lines - but these were eased over as best we could. We slalomed through the rest, only hitting one - which was pretty good considering that there were as many potholes in one mile as there are living humans on Earth.
 
It didn't slow us down considerably, so we stopped by the Sea Dogs and got our customary pennant, then set off for the Portland Head Light. Before doing so, we ate pizza at a local place called Otto's, which converts old gas stations into "filling stations" - for your stomach.
 
The crust was flaky and buttery - one of the few crusts I actually liked. Onions, sausage, and marinara sauce gave it a little bit of kick. It was a filling and delicious late lunch.
 
We then got to the Portland Head Light, which was absolutely gorgeous.
 
The Head Light was built at the directive of George Washington and is now part of a municipal park complex encompassing both it and an abandoned fort. Rolling green grass saw much use from local citizens, but our main objective was to see the Head Light.
 
We saw so much more than that.
 
The Head Light itself was interesting - especially since it's still in use! - and the high-intensity fog signal that blasted out was close to deafening if you got too close to the lighthouse. We spent most of our time down on the rocks below, climbing and clamoring over the jagged rocks that claimed so many ships, even after the Head Light was fully operational.
 
Seaweed and assorted flotsam would get tossed up into the rocks. Most of it would just run off back to the ocean, but in a few places, it would pool up in large rocks. An algae that looked like grass flourished in these tiny ponds, anchoring themselves onto the rock bottom of their little world.
 
We were out on the rocks for the better part of an hour, enjoying the challenge of navigation, investigating interesting details in the rocks, and getting as far out on the rocks as was safe before heading back, taking care to avoid the slippery bits.
 
After this rather extensive exploration, we headed back to the car, over a curved drawbridge, and back onto I-295, which eventually merged quite unexpectedly with I-95.
 
Our destination was Bangor, just a short drive away from Bfahome. (He says that it's pronounced "B-F-A-Home," but I pronounced/sneezed it a little more as it's spelled.)
 
My dad and I met him at a bar & grill in Orono. By the end of the day, we wanted to keep him around to be our new GPS, found out that he owns every university from here to Kingston, Ontario, recited bits from old BIONICLE games and the asdfmovie series, discussed the fun and hats of BrickFair, and generally had a blast. 10/10, would Bfahome again.
 
Tomorrow: Acadia National Park.



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Is Bacon a Vegetable?

Posted by Sumiki , in Life, Music, Sumiki's Dad, The Great American Road Trip May 25 2014 · 117 views

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We got on the road at 10:30 bound for Harrisburg. We wanted to avoid going through the gnarly traffic of New York City - we consider that a trip unto itself, to be done at an undetermined later date - so we decided to go up all the way to Scranton before cutting through upstate New York to Connecticut.
 
At 11:30, we entered the parking lot for the Harrisburg Senators, the Washington Nationals' double-A affiliate. The Senators' stadium is located on an island in the Susquehanna River, accessible from both sides by bridges. We drove on one of these bridges onto the island, then walked from the parking lot up to the stadium. This would have been an easy proposition if there weren't throngs of people traversing a footbridge to downtown Harrisburg, where an arts festival was being held.
 
We got into the team store, got a hat and a pennant for the esteemed Collection, learned valuable information on the mayflies that torment summer night games at the ballpark, and nearly walked over the footbridge to get a bite to eat. At nearly noon, the throngs of arts-lovers were peaking, and we knew it'd be nearly impossible to get anything to eat.
 
So we kept northbound, looking for a good stopping point on I-81. The thing about that stretch of I-81 (as is true for most stretches of that road I've been on), is that there really isn't much on it if you're not in a major city. The stretch between towns and exits is vast.
 
We got off at one of the few stopping points, a town with the rather unfortunate name of Frackville. We entertained the employees at the local Subway and filled up with gas.
 
A little after 2:30 we located the stadium of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Yankees and known as the Yankees themselves until last offseason. Their stadium certainly isn't major-league size, but it is a quality park. We entered the team store, got our requisite gear for the Collection, and then walked into the park.
 
If they noticed, they didn't care. It was the sixth inning, and the Rochester Red Wings were beating the RailRiders. We gave ourselves a quick stadium tour, saw the control booth where they were broadcasting the game on a local network affiliate, and encountered their mascot - something akin to a mutated hedgehog. It surprised my mom with a hug.
 
We contemplated getting something else to eat, but with the subs still in our stomachs and the portions generous, we headed out of the park, having caught a few innings without having to pay the price of admission.
 
Leaving the park at 3:00, we headed out of Scranton and headed for New York on I-84. We went through some tedious sections of road work and evaded some nasty pot holes. (A few fault-line-style potholes were entirely unavoidable, but it didn't screw up our alignment.)
 
I-84 curved along the New Jersey state line before traveling into New York. The "I ♥ NY" logo was emblazoned on a hill as we entered the Empire State.
 
We pulled off at a "text stop" - a feature peculiar to New York and something that has left me with even less hope for humanity as a whole. Every few miles, they've built a turnoff - basically a rest stop without any buildings - so people can stop trying to text and drive - instead, they can text at the text stop.
 
I guess this is good for keeping the folks stupid enough to text and drive off of the roads, but it wouldn't do any good if the texters are looking down at their phones and miss the sign that says "text stop."
 
The views from atop one of these stops, especially when the road is already on a mountaintop - is stunning. I took over behind the wheel at this point, and the traffic increased around me with every mile as we traveled to Connecticut.
 
A little after 5:00 we got to the Connecticut welcome center. This is the first time on this trip that I've been to a state that I've never been to on any previous trip. We talked with the friendly fellow who gave us all kinds of maps, as well as one sage piece of wisdom about traveling in Connecticut: don't go on Interstate 95.
 
Guess what road we'd later find ourselves on?
 
He advised an alternate route from Danbury to New Haven which involved state highways. We were perfectly fine with that, and went on picturesque, winding, river-paralleling Route 34. We started to get quite punchy as we wound our way to New Haven, culminating in my mispronunciation of Fort Sumter as "Bacteria Bulge."
 
They've not let me forget it since.
 
On Route 34, there are a series of small towns, filled with Cape Cod-style domiciles. Some were incorporated before the Revolution, like the town of Derby - incorporated in 1675.
 
(Side note: the fine for littering in Connecticut is $219. They make this fact well-known on their signs, which is kind of hilarious, because it's not $200, or $250, or even $300. It's $219. I can only imagine how this came to be set as the maximum fine for littering.)
 
A little after 6:00, we got to the outskirts of the Yale campus. We needed something to eat and wanted to see a little bit of the campus, so we drove around quasi-aimlessly until we found it.
 
It's a masterpiece of gothic architecture encased in one-way roads and dotted with enough modernity to keep you rooted in 2014 and not 1814. The detail and beauty everywhere we went was astounding.
 
We found a parking spot near an ornately spired steeple and began to walk around. After asking around, we wormed our way over to where we thought the School of Music would be, but ended up finding one of the coolest bits of architecture on campus: the Rare Book and Manuscript Library. If we had been here on anything but a Sunday, on any weekend but Memorial Day weekend, I could have gone in and seen the manuscript to Leo Ornstein's Piano Concerto.
 
This Library was part of the greater Student Commons area. It stood on a plain of gray textured stone, and looked as if it was being held aloft by four pyramid-shaped structures on each corner. Much of the face was of the same monolithic stone, engineered into a geometric pattern. The entrance was on the bottom, underneath an imposing overhang of stone.
 
On the other side was the Student Commons, an ornate L-shaped building with the names of World War I battles etched on one side. Below was some temporary set-up, presumably for Memorial Day.
 
The in the "elbow" of the L stood a flag pole forged in New York in 1908, and between that and the Library was a hole in the ground - a rectangular hole which looked down on a courtyard area for the subterranean offices.
 
Since it was one of the only open buildings on campus, we walked into the Student Commons building. Most of the doors were locked - you could really only use it for its bathrooms and as a cut-through to the other side - but the interior was intricate and ornate. If it were a new construction, I'd consider it an ostentatious display of gaud.
 
Inside were the names of Yale alumni that gave their lives for the United States in war. Their names were carved in marble on the concentric walls of the interior. Other jaw-dropping details included the relief work, a tile mosaic on the ceiling, and old-fashioned stalls in the bathrooms.
 
We went back to the car to get some hand sanitizer, then headed in the opposite direction for food. We didn't go far before my dad spotted a place to eat - Claire's Corner Copia. Now, this was a vegetarian restaurant, which I saw upon arrival, but somehow this fact escaped my dad as he went through the motions of ordering. We both got the special - southwestern egg rolls - while my mom sprang for some nachos. I began thinking about the fact that we were going to eat vegetarian Mexican in Connecticut when the waitress came over and told us that there was only one batch of southwestern egg rolls left.
 
With no immediate back-up, I mentioned the mac and cheese that I'd seen in the display case. My dad looked the waitress in the eye and asked if it came with bacon, loud enough to shock some of the more sensitive patrons.
 
I was somewhat mortified internally, but I laughed my head off when it happened. The waitress thought he might be referring to soy bacon, which made it even funnier.
 
The nachos were rather plain, and accounts from my dad with regards to the state of his egg salad sandwich were good (although he ate the individual layers of the sandwich off of the bread with a fork and knife, leaving bread and what appeared to be arugula detritus on the plate by meals' end.)
 
But those southwestern egg rolls were something else. Spicy beans and corn inside what appeared to be some kind of rye wrap, served on an abundance of greenery with some sort of sauce over the whole thing ... it was a glorious experience. The portions of it - and the other things I saw, brought to our table and to others - were massive. I couldn't finish mine, a third of the nachos were left, and the lump of hardtack they tried passing off as bread saw little action until we felt like we had to do something with it at the end.
 
We did not book a room in advance since we didn't know where we'd end up - Danbury, New Haven, or even New London - so we looked into it when we got to the car. The only property available anywhere close to our route required a wee bit of backtracking.
 
In the context of how far we'd traveled, backtracking really wasn't a deal-breaker - it was only about three miles, as the crow flies, from the Yale campus - but getting to the hotel meant that we had to face those three miles on Interstate 95.
 
It was bad, but it could have been much worse, and I was thankful that we didn't try 95 when we needed to get from Danbury to New Haven. We entered West Haven and then exited, nabbing a room at a hotel that, despite being Memorial Day weekend, doesn't have an insane number of visitors. I guess that's because no one has ever said "hey guys, we're going to spend our Memorial Day in West Haven, Connecticut!"
 
Tomorrow: New London, CT, Narragansett and Newport in RI, and Hyannis, MA.



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The Hatpile of Hagerstown

Posted by Sumiki , in HATPILE, Life, Sumiki's Dad, The Great American Road Trip May 24 2014 · 118 views

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After a protracted breakfast, we began the day at 11:30 and headed away from Winchester on Route 7. We rolled through rolling countryside and a half hour later found ourselves in West Virginia, on one of its little nubs. Our destination: Harpers Ferry, made famous by John Brown's 1859 abolitionist raid on its US Armory. After Brown's raid, Harpers Ferry continued to be an important stronghold during the Civil War, sitting at the confluence of two states at the war's beginning and three by war's end.
 
Sitting on the tip of West Virginia and separated from heights in both Maryland and Virginia by rivers, Harpers Ferry is now a historic town, with cobblestone streets, a mix of carefully preserved and even more carefully reconstructed buildings, and a fascinating terrain. Its strategic location has made its history complex - before the Brown raid, the location was selected by George Washington himself to be the location for the US Armory - essentially the Fort Knox of weaponry for the United States government.
 
The rivers there were so important as a jumping-off point that Lewis and Clark stopped there en route to the West. One of their favorite boats - a collapsable boat - was eventually ditched because it couldn't handle the waters they found themselves in, but a replica proudly stands near the Potomac.
 
Harpers Ferry continued to serve as the armory through the Civil War, which made it a common location for raids and battles as the supplies changed hands. After Virginia seceded, General "Stonewall" Jackson secured the supplies by placing cannon on the heights that surround it, and sent the supplies further south to be used by the Confederacy.
 
All in all, Harpers Ferry changed hands eight times during the course of the war. Later in the war, General Jubal Early did battle at Harpers Ferry, but in doing so, lost too many men to continue on. The usually aggressive Early did not know that there were not enough men to stand between his army and Washington, D.C. ... a route that, if taken, could have prolonged the war.
 
Harpers Ferry, with its heights and twists and turns, is a small but geographically interesting town. The iron moorings that once latched a pontoon bridge across the Potomac River are still in place, embedded in stone structures on the river's shore. Grimes Davis, a southerner who sided with the Union and the commander of the Union cavalry, once used the pontoon bridge to escape back into Maryland.
 
I had to navigate some wary geese, their droppings, and what appeared to be a mud-quicksand mix, but I found my way from the heights where the railroad used to go down along the stone infrastructure, which held the curved iron bars solidly at its base. Successful, and about to turn back, a train blasted its horn twice as it chugged across the Potomac on a railroad bridge of slightly newer construction.
 
Another quirk of Harpers Ferry was the John Brown building, probably the least important building in the town until his raid. Originally on the heights, quite near the pontoon bridge moorings, it was of enough historical significance that the whole thing was moved and displayed at the Chicago World's Fair. When it returned, the residents were rather disinterested in the building and now stands about 50 yards from its original location, which now has only an obelisk to mark its original foundation site. (It could not be moved back to its original location due to the proximity of the railroad ... which has since been re-routed over the river.)
 
It was there that John Brown was wounded in an exceptionally peculiar way. When the troops had surrounded the shed he'd barricaded himself into, he busted out - probably resigning himself to death. The soldier that he first encountered thrust his sword into Brown's gut ... only to have it hit his belt buckle and bend upwards, as the sword was made of a soft material. Thus, the soldier did what any soldier would do in that situation: bang John Brown over the head with the thing.
 
We explored all of Harpers Ferry that we felt like, then headed back to the car. Our next stop was along a famous route, one that connected Harpers Ferry to the bloodiest single day of the Civil War: Antietam.
 
But getting to Antietam isn't as straightforward as one might imagine. After getting to Maryland, roads hook around and follow the Potomac on the Maryland side. They were quaint, historic, and vertigo-inducing. Going from the Potomac - roughly sea level - up through mountainous terrain to Antietam was an absolute chore. The road bent this way and that, going up and down on blind curves, hitting you with blind entrances, and wavy hills that would make you feel weightless and twice your weight in the span of about five seconds.
 
The roller-coaster road was seventeen miles, and played an important role in the battle of Antietam.
 
We finally made it to Antietam - although I'm not sure my inner ear has caught up yet - and poked around the visitor's center, watching a film about the battle as narrated by the golden tonsils of James Earl Jones. Most of it - well, all of it - was already in my dad's head. He'd be an excellent park ranger, as he's read up enough on Civil War history to go toe-to-toe with any ranger. (In fact, he knows more about the Civil War than most of them know about it - or even the backs of their own hands. Fortunately, the historically ignorant on the payroll are generally stuck in the tiny admissions booths at the entrance to the various parks.)
 
We then began the driving tour around Antietam, crossing over and paralleling Confederate and Union lines. The Confederacy had invaded Maryland in the interest of bringing the war to Union soil in order to destroy what was left of the Union troops' morale, legitimize the Confederacy in the eyes of European powers, and bring the war to an end. After a skirmish or two, the armies collided around Antietam Creek, near the town of Sharpsburg. The carnage in about a two-mile area outnumbered the total casualties of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Mexican-American War combined.
 
And it all happened in one day.
 
Dunkers Church, behind the Confederate lines, was damaged by the hail of bullet fire, which contributed to its collapse in a wind storm just a few decades later. (It has since been rebuilt, though it is no longer used.) General J.B. Hood led his notoriously rowdy Texans to save the day at Dunkers Church when the Confederates were being pushed back by the Union. (Hood would lose functionality in one of his arms at Gettysburg in 1863, and would lose one of his legs entirely at Chickamauga later in the same year.)
 
Three of the bloodiest areas were the Cornfield, Rohrbach Bridge, and the Sunken Road. Rohrbach Bridge which has since been renamed to Burnside Bridge after Union General Ambrose Burnside, whose impressive and precariously manicured facial coiffure let to the coining of the term "sideburns." (More on Burnside in a moment.)
 
The Cornfield is not a large area, but it was an absolute bloodbath. The date of the battle - September 17, 1862 - meant that the cornstalks, though dead, were still high and thick. When the armies clashed, confusion rippled through the lines. All you could hear was the din of cannon fire, and all you could see were the guys to your right and left and the flag of the regiment somewhere in front of you. Shooting blind, control of the Cornfield went back and forth as casualties piled up. One of the survivors - Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. - went on to become a Supreme Court Justice.
 
Now, as promised, more on Burnside. The only thing that could outshine Burnside's sideburns was his incompetency as a commander. At Rohrbach Bridge, he was tasked with taking the other side. With a wide river and a steep hill on the other side, his men were forced to cross the river on the one bridge available. This may have worked if his men had charged and overwhelmed the thin Confederate line, but he sent his men off in smaller groups, which were handled by the Confederates. After enough waves, the Confederates were eventually worn down, but not before Burnside had wasted an unnecessary amount of manpower.
 
(This, however, does explain the tactic that Burnside used in December of that year at Fredericksburg, when he sent wave after wave of his men at the high ground held by the Confederates at Marye's Heights.)
 
A third bloody part of Antietam was the Sunken Road, visible to this day. The Confederates, under the command of North Carolinian D.H. Hill, post-war Davidson College professor, and his subordinate John Gordon, who got shot five times at the Sunken Road and only survived because his hat kept him upright just enough to keep him from choking on his own blood. He got hit four more times through the rest of the war and manage to see the end of the war alive and without having lost a limb or an eye.
 
Backed up against the river and with no place to go, Robert E. Lee had to think about the possibility of his invasion strategy backfiring and ending the war then and there, before Gettysburg occurs. But A.P. Hill's famous Light Division, so named because they could out-march anyone else, marched the seventeen miles of hilly terrain between Harpers Ferry and Antietam - on the same road we traveled on - in one day. Like a moment in a Hollywood script, his reinforcements held off the Union.
 
But the Union still had a chance to annihilate Lee's Army of Northern Virginia ... if they'd simply attacked on the very next day. But the Union, under the command of notoriously cautious, extremely egomaniacal, inexplicably popular, and newly reinstated General George McClellan, didn't push onwards, allowing Lee to slink back into Virginia, preparing a second invasion that would end up on the fields of Gettysburg less than a year later.
 
After that tour, we went back through Sharpsburg - which had a parade going through it when we passed through earlier - and looked for something to eat. The only place we saw looked like a bar, so we kept pressing on to Hagerstown, home of the Hagerstown Suns, a single-A minor league team affiliated with the Washington Nationals. They were playing the Asheville Tourists at 7:00. We entered the park at around 6:00, got free hats in their Memorial Day giveaway, purchased a medium-sized pennant for the ever-expanding Basement Collection, and got some food. I got a Cheddar Jalapeño hot dog (not as spicy as you might think) while my parents ate burgers.
 
We got some seats underneath some cover. It sprinkled a little bit and the wind brought a few drops to our legs, but these passed. Before the game could begin, the National Anthem was sung ... by two little girls.
 
They had heart, and they had the lyrics down (which can't be said of most adults who sing it), but they were both badly off key and in different keys - the closest they got to singing in unison was a wavering quarter-tone dissonance. Still, their attempt was valiant, and they were applauded greatly.
 
Since my parents had entered the park with hats, and they had given all of us hats upon entrance, a hatpile was a must. We piled five caps on my dad's head.
 
(hatpiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiile)
 
The Hagerstown faithful got into their hometown team, cheering the Suns on with all manners of whooping and hollering. One large black fellow had a proclivity to shrilly whistle the notes that precede the "charge!" cheer, much to the annoyance of a great many people in our section, including myself.
 
The Suns, from a better farm system than Asheville, scored early and then poured it on from there. Two triples with two outs helped them to a six-run lead. We split chicken tenders and fries and split before it got too dark, as we needed some light to get our way out of Hagerstown.
 
This early exit was necessary, as we had to navigate one-way roads in the less savory parts of Hagerstown in order to get to I-81, which got us to Pennsylvania a little after 8:30. Before 9:00 we arrived in Chambersburg and settled into our room.
 
Tomorrow: we're still planning the route. We're debating when to to Valley Forge - now, or on our way back. The route still isn't settled and likely will not be until the morning, but we're trying to figure out the fastest route to Connecticut and Rhode Island without having to navigate traffic-choked places like New York City.



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The Road So Far

Posted by Sumiki , in The Great American Road Trip, Sumiki's Dad, Life May 23 2014 · 92 views

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This was perhaps the most uneventful day one of any trip. We didn't know if we'd even get on the road today, as we had to wait for a package to show up through FedEx before we could leave. FedEx said that the package would arrive at 8:00 PM, so we spent the morning and early afternoon leisurely packing, thinking that we'd have to delay our plans by one day.
 
The FedEx guy showed up a little after 3:00. We sprung into action, immediately panicking. My mom was in the shower, so my dad and I did everything that we could and got the packing finalized.
 
We left a little after 5:00, traversing scenery up through North Carolina and crossing into Virginia. After merging onto I-81 in Roanoke, we kept making good time en route to Winchester.
 
A little before 8:00, a truck with a kayak in its bed flew past us going about a zillion miles a second. My dad looked at it and said, "look, that's a Himalayan."
 
There you have it, folks - a truck carrying a kayak is, apparently, a Himalayan. We tried not to think about the fact that our lives were in his hands as we careened down the Interstate.
 
At 9:00, we pulled off the road and nibbled at a Jimmy John's. While this didn't fully alleviate our appetites, we felt re-energized enough to get gas and get back on the road.
 
An hour later, we pulled into the hotel in Winchester. Still hungry, we saw an interesting restaurant nearby. We inquired about its quality when we checked in, and after getting positive feedback, we decided to have Dinner #2 over there.
 
I can't speak for my mom's half-salad or my dad's fried fish concoction, but I got a blue cheese burger and it was merely mediocre. But I was only looking for sustenance, and sustenance is what I received. Perhaps it was the lateness of the hour, perhaps it was a lack of taste buds in the mouths of the folks who staff the front desk ...
 
Tomorrow: the battlefields of Harper's Ferry and Antietam before traveling towards Harrisburg.



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question

Posted by Sumiki , in BIONICLE/LEGO, BZPower, Other Stuff, Sumiki's Dad, twiggy, Writing May 20 2014 · 192 views

so would anyone read a short comedy about my dad in the bionicle universe







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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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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.

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Sumiki
Waffles

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GUYUGKUYG
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WORT WORT WORT
~Toa Drokonas~
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The Great Forgetter
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The Oncoming Storm
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.:ENCRYPTION:.
~~Zarkan~~
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Zarayna: The Quiet Light

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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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