The Perils of Travel

This past weekend, I took a trip up to New Jersey to see my good bloggy friends Val, and then Jules.  Opting not to drive, I booked a ticket on Amtrak, so that I wouldn’t have to deal with traffic and could just sit back, read a book, and arrive in about two and a half hours.  Easy peasy, lemon squeezey!

Yeah, or so I thought.  See, here’s the thing about me . . . I am a disaster when it comes to traveling by myself.  Traveling with my hubs and kids?  Cake.  Me on my own . . . tragic.  Lest you think I’m being melodramatic, let’s review . . .

Trip to Ocean City, MD, last year to meet my hubs and kids, who were already down there:

I left work a bit early to try to miss some traffic.  However, it is raining and a Friday evening . . . so, before I go 2 miles, I hit a ton of traffic.  Uh oh.  Then, once I start to move a bit, and obviously get overconfident that I might make up a bit of time . . . dead stopped cars.  I discover that there is a huge accident on the upcoming bridge, halting all movement for about 15 miles.  15 miles!  Of completely stopped traffic, just sitting in the rain.  So, yeah . . .all by myself, sitting in the car, inching along little by little, for hours.  Not a great trip. It took me almost 5 hours to make a 2 and a half hour trip.

Trip to NYC for Blogger, summer of 2012:

Flight to NYC, due to arrive at around 10:00 pm, stopover in Philly.  I blogged about this here, but short story is that there was a massive storm, halting all flights out of Philly, so I was stranded there for hours, until I wrangled my way onto a flight at around midnight.  Then, when I finally arrived in NYC around 1:30 in the morning, I find that the room I had booked many months ago, and confirmed the week prior, was not available.  And on the return trip . . . the flight out of NYC was delayed, causing me to miss my flight out of (you guessed it) Philly, and have an extra hour and a half to wait for the next available flight.

Which brings us to this past weekend . . . and a train ride:

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Here it comes . . .

I made sure I was plenty early for my 10:47 am train.  In fact, I arrived so early, I sat in my car for 20 minutes before I ventured down to the tracks.  As I stood on the platform, waiting for the train that was due to arrive in about 5 minutes, an announcement informed me that the train was running about 10 minutes late.  It was cold and windy on that platform.  But I stood there.  And waited.

The train finally arrived, and I moved to get on.  As the door opened, I realized that there was quite a gap between the platform and the train, probably a good foot and a half, and I was mentally trying to figure out how my rolling bag would make it over such a gap.  Then, I stepped onto the train, and my foot hit wet metal and started sliding.  You know how they say your life is supposed to flash before your eyes when something happens?  Well, what was flashing in front of my eyes was the huge crevice below me as my ass started falling towards the tracks.  I will attest to that whole slow motion thing, though.  As I reached out to attempt to grab onto something, anything, to stop my rapid decent, I found that there was nothing in arms reach to gain purchase upon, and I continued falling down, down, down.  Somehow, I landed in such a way that most of me stayed on the train landing.  When my fall finally came to a stop, I was lucky to only be looking down at the tracks, and not broken and bent, down below the train, as I had feared and imagined while falling.  But, I was fine.  A bit bruised from crashing to the metal landing, and having my shin hit the edge of the train, apparently, but fine.  Although, my heart was beating a bit more rapidly than a few minutes prior, that’s for sure.

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Sweet bruise.

As the journey began, I settled into my seat and tried to forget about the near death experience I had just encountered.  Everything was going smoothly . . . until we arrived in Philly.  As passengers got onto the train, a lady sat across the aisle from me and began unwrapping the most fragrant and delicious smelling cheese steak I’d ever encountered.  Having yet to eat that day, it was intoxicating.  Then, just as a little bit of drool started pooling atop the book I was reading . . . it all went dark.  Total power failure and we were underneath large concrete overpasses, so it was very dark.  So, we sat there.  In the dark.  With no idea what was happening.

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This is when the zombies would attack . . .

It was the longest time until I finally figured out what was happening.  Luckily, cheese steak lady was an Amtrak employee, so a guy came onto the train and started chatting with her about what was going on.  Otherwise, I would have been cluelessly left sitting in the dark.  Apparently, they had to change engines.  Oh that.  Sure, of course.  Uh huh.  Wait . . . what???  Yes, they were changing the engine.  I guess it was lucky that our engine died while we were stopped at a station, at least.  Crazy.  Oh, did I mention this was in my old friend, Philly?  Yeah, I’ve never actually been to Philly, but strangely, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in transportation stops in that place.  That’s how Philly and I roll.

So, eventually they got the new engine and the lights and power were once again functioning.  And we were off . . . merely an hour late.

Let there be light!

Let there be light!

Eventually, I made it to my destination.  And was met with Val and beer!  You know, because she knows me.  She was my chauffeur for the day, so she drove us to the hotel I was staying in that evening.  When I arrived, everything in the lobby was roped off with yellow tape and there were signs asking us to “Excuse our dust” as they were renovating.  Ok, no problem.  I wasn’t planning to camp out in the lobby anyway.  After I was given my room key, we went over to the elevators and were greeting by a gaping maw, all covered up with cardboard and hanging movers’ rugs.  Hmmm, that’s strange.

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Then, we arrive at my room.  And just before I open the door, I hear this very loud humming sound.  Once I opened the door, I was greeted by one of those huge rug drying machines on full blast, sitting in the middle of the floor, along with the window AC blasting air on high.  Nope, no thank you.  New room, please.  So, we trudge all the way back downstairs, assuming that the elevator and room were both part of some murder spree and clean up effort that recently occurred. The front desk guy tried to cover up by saying it was a “broken pipe on the 5th floor,” but Val and I knew better.  The next room was right across the hall, and while there was no blood stains or drying machine, it did have a funky smell.  Then, as we were in there a few minutes, we started to hear these banging sounds that sounded like they were coming from the bathroom.  There was nobody in the bathroom, so we figured that it was probably ghosts.  Upon further inspection, though, I did find this in the bathroom on the soap ledge in the shower:

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Such a classy joint.  Luckily, we had beer and a fun night out planned to distract us from the murder/pube hotel.  Which I will tell you all about in an upcoming post.  So, stay tuned for tales of the Jersey shenanigans that ensued later that day.  Cheers!

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Shenanigans with Val: Elf, Old Lady Beatdowns & Hipster Bars (Part 1)

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Here it is.  The moment you all have been waiting for . . . the recap of Val‘s most recent visit.  Well, at least the first half of it.  It was, as always, the most epic of days, which means we packed a ton of epicness into a small amount of hours.  So, I’m gonna have to split this thing up so as to do the entire story justice.

We begin our story with both of us arriving in Baltimore, where we would spend the next 24 hours, traveling in and around the city.  Somehow, she beat me there, even with her mandatory stop at Waffle House, and the fact that I only live a little less than an hour away.  Normally, I’m waiting for her ass, so this was different.  However, I found her comfortably ensconced in a nice lounge chair in the lobby, and didn’t make her wait too long.  Once we checked into our room and changed into our good, theater-going clothes, we set off to our first planned destination . . . Elf: the Musical.

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When Val and I first decided that this would be the day she would once again grace my fair state with her awesomeness, as always, I did my due diligence to see what was going on.  When I found out that Elf would be in Baltimore that weekend, it was decided.  I asked Val how she felt about it, she responded “smiling is my favorite,” and we were off!

When we arrived at the theater, we obtained some beverages, lest we get parched during the long performance, and then found our seats.  They were excellent seats, about 12 rows back and right in the middle.  Perfect view.  When the show started, we were so excited.  The first thing we saw was Santa, and we were like two little girls on Christmas morning again.  “It’s Santa!  I know him.”  We were giddy with excitement.  When Buddy came out, who looked like a six foot tall Martin Short but sounded exactly like Kenneth from 30 Rock, we were already completely enchanted and in love with the show.  It was like the movie, but just different enough to make it fun.  And musical, of course.

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Being super excited and stoked to be there, and loving everything about the show, we occasionally made a comment to each other about some of the funny or interesting parts of the show.  But quiet-like, because we have class, dammit.  And we were laughing at all the funny parts, of which there were many.  Well, apparently, our joviality and friendship highly offended the woman to my left, because about 40 minutes into the show, I suddenly found myself face to very ugly mug with the meanest and nastiest person ever.  She thrust her puss right into my personal space and proclaimed:  “If you two don’t cut it out, I’m going to call the manager and report you!”  Commence my shocked look towards Val to see if this was for real happening.  “I’m getting really sick of your shit!”  Holy crap, I think that really DID just happen.  What the hell do we do now?

Yeah.  We were actually and totally struck speechless.  Us.  That NEVER happens!  We just could not even believe that someone would actually be offended that we were enjoying ourselves and laughing at a musical comedy, and would so nastily and rudely tell us to stop having fun.  We weren’t bothering her in any way, but apparently she was a very angry elf.

After we recovered from our initial shock (and wondered to each other if we were allowed to laugh any more), we were pissed.  At intermission, Val was pretty much set on beating her ass at the end of the show.  However, that mean old Grinch was just lucky that she was as fast as she was mean, because she raced away from those seats the second the show was over, and Val was unable to catch her.  Probably best, or we would have spent the rest of the day at the police station.

Once we escaped (barely) having not murdered anyone, we took a quick trip back to the hotel room to change into a bit less fancy duds.  It would be the last we would see of our lovely hotel room for the next 12 hours or so.  However, we were unaware of that at the time, so we did not dally.  We turned right around to head out to dinner.  We had made plans to meet another blogger, who lives locally, for drinks and some food before we went off to our next destination.  (Yes, we were very busy girls that day).

When I set up our meeting place with Bluz, he checked out the locale online and immediately balked at the idea of going to a “hipster bar,” averring that he was decidedly “unhip.”  Reassuring him that I had no idea of the restaurant’s hipster status when I chose it, but that I only chose it because I had reviewed the menu and was intrigued by the offerings, and also that it was within walking distance of our hotel, I convinced him that his non-skinny jeans wearing ass would be just fine.  Plus, I had Val.  He would have met us in Satan’s bathroom if that’s where we were headed.

And actually, he almost got his wish for a different joint, since we arrived there before him and were gonna text him to meet us across the street at a beer garden that looked rad, but that was right before the bartender got his hooks into us and realized we were easy.  No, not like that!  We’re ladies, yo.  But he offered us a free shot, so we had no choice but to stay.  Free booze?  Um, yes please.  I mean, obviously.  We have class.

Oh, and did I mention that we spent most of the time making fun of him?  The bartender, that is, not Bluz.  I mean, what else could we do when he tried to get all fancy by flipping bottles, and then ended up dropping one.  And then there was the attempted selfie (he was supposed to be taking a pic of us), where he just looks like he’s eating his thumb.

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Plus, he patently refused to light our shots on fire!  What kind of crappy bartender was he, anyway?  Damn.  I mean, it didn’t stop me from pimping out my good friend Val to him, so that he may actually own her now and have her living in a pit in his basement.  As long as she just keeps putting on the lotion, she should be fine.  Besides, I’m not worried about her.  She’s a tough bitch.  She’ll be wearing his skin by the end of the week.

Once we finished our food and drinks and lovely conversation, we had to say adieu to our friend Bluz, so that we could head on over to our next destination . . . a haunted pub crawl in a historic seaside area known for its lively nightlife.  Oh yeah, it was on.

Alas, my dear readers, this is where I must leave off on this marvelous tale.  I will continue with the second half, and thrilling conclusion, later this week.  And just to give you a taste, there will be . . . beard biting, top hats and canes, and much late night (early morning) drunken shenanigans.  Pretty sure you are not surprised by that last part.  Until then . . . . .

Bloggers, Bronies and Baseball

Last Friday was a pretty eventful day.  As opposed to my normal eight and a half hours of doldrums on the last day of the work week, usually spent trapped in my office at my hellish job, there was instead a bit of excitement.  The day prior, I had discovered that a blogger friend would be in my area on Friday.  So, of course, because I’m obnoxious, I mandated that she meet up with me when she passed through my town.  I am very demanding that way!

We went back and forth for a while as to how and when it would happen, which consisted of her asking me if I wanted to meet for a cocktail (um, yeah I do!), and me realizing that we weren’t going to be able to meet after work because she already had dinner plans with some family.  Thus, it came down to me “taking a late lunch,” aka walking downtown to meet in the afternoon for a drink.  And yes, I was going to drink during the workday.  God bless America.

I felt it my duty to warn Jess Witkens, that upon her arrival in my fair city, she might encounter some strangeness.  Even more so than the normal craziness of leggings and boobs hanging out everywhere.  No, this was a very special weekend.  The BronyCon was in town.  What are Bronies you ask?  Well, that is a very good question.  Basically, it is grown men who are huge fans of My Little Pony.  No, really.  And not ironically, either.  But in a pay lots of money for airfare and hotel in a city that will host a bunch of pony loving men, convening to do who knows what (um, role play, apparently), for 3 days straight.  Oh, and did I mention that they dress up?  Yeah, hence the warning.

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When I met Jess and her boyfriend, Joe, the first thing I noticed about her, besides the fact that she is super adorable, is that she is tiny.  As in, I could put her in my pocket and carry her around, tiny.  She was cute as a button!  Since it was later in the day, and nobody was too hungry, we all ordered a drink and just some sushi to share.  Living in Wisconsin, they don’t get to experience good sushi with fresh seafood very often, so this was a good choice for this landlocked pair.

We were only able to visit for a short period of time, since I unfortunately had to go back to work, but in that time, we bonded over a mutual love of Halloween, music and travel.  Before we had to say goodbye (sniff!), Jess and I were able to get a picture of the two of us . . . along with one of our furry little friends.

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Thanks for letting me hijack some of your time while you were in town, Jess!  Hope you and Joe enjoyed your brief time in my wacky little city.

After work, I met the family at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.  This will have been my FOURTH baseball game this year!  That must be some sort of record.  I think I went once last year, and may have gone more times this year than the previous ten years combined.  Then again, the Orioles sucked a lot in recent years past, so it wasn’t all that much fun hanging out to watch them lose so much.  It’s a bit more fun now.

Before the game, we had dinner at Dempsey’s, which is a restaurant that is inside the Park, but right outside the actual stadium proper.  They have fabulous food.  I may have mentioned this in a previous post, but it’s worth repeating . . . bacon, on a stick:

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Not just the fab food, but we got to sit outside with a view of the goings on, out and around the stadium.  Along with it being a lovely night, it wasn’t a bad view at all.

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Once we finished our meals, we went into the stadium proper to head up to our seats.  Talk about a nice view.  This is from the outfield wall, which we travelled by on our way to our seats.  We just had to stop for a few moments to enjoy the scene.

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It was even better when we got to see Nate McLouth (of personally handing my son a foul ball fame) hit a grand slam home run later in the evening, which had the crowd on its feet and in hysterics.  Did I mention a bit more fun?  Yep.  Thanks, O’s!

Oh, and just because of the What the F*ck of it all . . . a bonus picture I came across on the wonderful world wide web of wackiness in regards to that whole Brony thing above.  Please to enjoy:

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Good Beer, No Sh*t

When we last left our intrepid heroes . . . my good friend Valerie had descended upon the great state of Maryland, to share her awesomeness with this part of the mid-Atlantic.  I spoke of our initial trip to the mannequin store, and of our evening out with her friends at the brew pub.  Much shenanigans were detailed.  (If you haven’t read the first part of this tale, go back now and start your journey at the beginning).

What I have yet to explain, and the purpose of this post, is the intervening time bookended by those two activities above.  Directly following our mannequin store visit, we drove straight out to Frederick, MD, home of the Flying Dog Brewery.  In planning the weekend for Val, I looked around at different events and activities around the area, and saw that the brewery held tours of their facility.  Seeing that the tours also included beer tastings, and being a good friend and a good host (because that’s what friends do . . . get their friends nice and inebriated on their vacations!), I figured this would be a fun event.  I was lucky enough to get a reservation for the two of us (this was before I knew that she was bringing friends), so off to Frederick we went for an afternoon of education and beer drinking.  Huzzah!!

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Before we even entered the building, we were excited about the experience.  I mean, how much do you want a sign at your job that reserves your Alpha Bitch parking space?  Yeah, me too.

We arrived early enough that we were able to take a look around.  The first thing we saw was a huge chalkboard that listed all of the beers they had to offer.  Val was suitably impressed . . .

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Although, they did tell us that no beer drinking was allowed before the tour, so we were just going to have to wait.  But that’s ok, because our tour was about to start, and that is when we got to meet our tour guide extraordinaire . . . Emily!

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Emily was so incredibly rad.  Seriously, she was informative, had a great sense of humor, and really knew her beer.  Plus . . . she gave us beer.  So, you know, that might have something to do with how hard Val and I fell in love with this lovely lady.  We miss you, Emily!!

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A beer Goddess!!

Emily told us the story of the founder of the brewery, George Stranahan, who named it Flying Dog after viewing a painting in a tiny bar in Pakistan.  Having just finished a long trek up the second highest mountain in the world, he gazed upon a picture of a dog with wings and felt that it was a kindred spirit, representing how he felt about the monumental journey he and his companions had just taken.  I’m sure it also had nothing to do with the fact that he was imbibing some local spirits in that bar at the time.

Once we knew some of the history of the brewery, it was time for the tour.  We were ushered around to the different areas within the building, viewing all of the various steps that a beer must travel through before it becomes frothy goodness ready to get in my belly.  As you might imagine, Val and I got up to some jackassery whilst the tour was going on.

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We were like the bad kids in the back of the class that just fool around and pass notes, so that the teacher has to eventually separate them.  Sorry Ms. Emily!!  We’ll be good.

We did pay attention for the most part, since despite all of the fun distractions, it was a very interesting and informative tour.  Not to mention seeming like one of the coolest places to work ever.  And I am not just saying that in an “I want to work there so I can drink BEER all day” frat boy Neanderthal way, either.  It just has a great vibe about it and would appear to not take itself too seriously.  For example . . .

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This was the door to Quality Control . . . yeah.

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The sign next to the huge-ass bottling machine.

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A zombie mannequin torso in the warehouse, where they display all the metals they have won for their beer.

I could fall in love with a place like that!  A far cry from my own personal hell, aka my current job.  We don’t have any zombie mannequin torsos around here to hold all of our medals.  Hell, we don’t have any medals, for that matter!

Once the official tour was finished, that is when the real fun started . . . the tasting.  We were each given a wristband with 5 little tabs on it (indicating 5 tastings, duh), and that was in addition to the beer poured by Emily on the tour.  (I mentioned we love her, right?  Just wanna make sure we covered that . . .).

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Decisions, decisions . . .

Ok, so I guess you are wondering how the beer tasted, hmmm?  Well, it was FAN-FUCKING-TASTIC, of course!!  I mean, yeah it was pretty good, I guess.  Actually, we really did enjoy our beer tasting, but what we enjoyed more at this point, was a little bit more Emily . . . (you didn’t think we were done with her yet, did you?).  We even got a picture of the three of us together . . .

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Not only that, but there was this amazingly gorgeous metal throne in the lobby area that was all red velvet roped and off-limits.  We asked her about it, telling her that we thought is was super cool, and she not only whipped out her laptop to show us the video they just made featuring that there chair (seriously, watch that video . . . it is awesomesauce!), but she even allowed us to sit in it!!  Did I tell you she was the raddest, or what?

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Queen Bitch Val!!

After we watched the video for Raging Bitch (kindred spirits, that), Emily went on to show us the other most recent video for Snake Dog Ale, which was similarly awesome.  So, you see, she wasn’t just a tour guide, beer server and employee of Flying Dog . . . she was like our own personal Julie McCoy!  So, we decided to profess our love in the only way we could . . . creepy love notes.  This was mine, of the more subtle approach:

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This was the Flying Dog provided survey form that I filled out after the tour.  I handed it to Emily, and told her that I would like this to be considered as my application for employment.  Val was a bit less subtle in her profession of love for our dear Emily.  First, she whipped out her handy dandy notebook that some kind blogger sent to her, along with some other shit, in a past giveaway (said blogger also likes to gift people with tiny bottles of booze . . . said blogger is awesome).

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And then this happened . . .

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We put this on top of Emily’s laptop as we left.  We had wanted to give her a great big hug and to say thanks for the great time before we left.  However, when it was time for us to depart, we were told that she had gone “upstairs” to the “offices.”  We’re pretty sure this was code for going to the local constabulary to file a restraining order against us.  So now, we are probably limited to viewing our Emily from afar . . . like from about 50 feet away.  Either that, or she was so creeped out by us that she was filing for a name change and running away to Utah, to start a new and secret life, hidden from the crazy girl bloggers who she assumed wanted to wear her head as a hat.  (We love your hair, Emily, but we would never do something quite so creepy.  Stalkerish notes are where we draw the line!).

So class, what have we learned from this (incredibly long) tale?  Well, three simple lessons:

1.  Emily is awesome.
2.  Flying Dog beer is delicious.
3.  Val and I should not be allowed out in civilized society.

Class dismissed!  Let’s go get some beer . . . the first round is on me.

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