I stayed at the Inn at St. John in Portland, Maine. It’s a well-maintained Victorian building that’s been a hotel continuously since 1897. It’s so old that it still uses metal keys.
I followed my usual well-formed plan of wandering around and looking at things.
As I was wandering, I happened across the Lobsterman statue that’s mentioned in Roadside America. It’s really more notable for its history. As maritime-themed statues go, it can’t compare to the seal-gutting statue in Copenhagen.
I also saw the Berlin Wall, previously seen in Berlin.
At the top of the hill in downtown Portland is an observatory that was built in 1807 by an entrepreneurial sea captain who set up an annual subscription service to notify ship owners when their ships were arriving. That sounded interesting, so of course it was closed for the season.
The following morning was cold and rainy with high winds, but I still walked over a mile to visit the International Cryptozoology Museum. I could have driven, but I had a good parking spot and I didn’t want to lose it.
The Cryptozoology Museum takes a very broad approach to cryptozoology. There are your serious cryptids (Bigfoot, chupacabras), the “intersection of cryptozoology and popular culture” (Godzilla, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Creature from the Black Lagoon), hoaxes and fakes (jackalopes), animals thought to be extinct that later turned out not to be (coelacanths), animals that really are extinct (mastodons, dodos), animals that are extinct but that people claim to have seen anyway (thylacines), and things that are included for no readily apparent reason (Disneyland travel posters, some antique Santa Claus figurines, a rather nice collection of tiki mugs). There’s even a display case of “cryptoscatology” with artificial (I hope) poop from different animals (and humans), plus a giant pile of Bigfoot poop for comparison.
There’s a small section on lake monsters, but the only Ogopogo items are a souvenir ashtray from Kelowna and a couple similar knick-knacks.
Sadly, they prohibit photos except of the items below. Copyright issues, according to the friendly but somewhat intense owner.
The sun came out in the afternoon and I did more wandering.
Most of downtown Portland is kind of grimy, but State Street, at the top of the hill, retains a lot of its 19th century grandeur.
The grandest mansion is the Victoria Mansion, built in the 1850s. That one has tours, but it was closed for the season.
So I went down to Wharf Street and had a Bissel Kickflip at Mash Tun.
There was snow and graupel through Vermont and into New Hampshire, but I am not one to complain about such things.
I checked in at my hotel in Concord—”Tru by Hilton”—which was nice enough, although it had cartoonish decor that looked like it was designed by Ikea, and the pillows smelled faintly of bug spray. On the plus side, there were no bugs in the pillows.
After checking in, I went downtown to Concord Craft Brewery and ordered a flight of beers before I found out that they weren’t serving food that day (Easter). So I drank the beer on an empty stomach and staggered around the block to a restaurant across from the capitol building and had a bison burger.
The next morning I checked out and drove to Portsmouth to see the massive tidal flows, which at about ten feet are second only to the Bay of Fundy. And I don’t doubt it, but shortly after low tide isn’t really the ideal time to see it. What you see is a lot of mud.
So not wanting to wait around for several hours, I drove a few miles south and toured the USS Albacore, a research submarine that was active from 1953 to 1972. As with St. Edmund’s severed arm, Roadside America rated this “Major Fun,” and I daresay it was even more fun than the arm.
Also notable is the fact that I didn’t hit my head even once.
We had no real plans for Saturday, so we looked around for things to see in the Hyde Park area.
The Vanderbilt Mansion looked interesting, and might have been, but it was a two-hour wait to get in, so we just looked around outside.
The Roosevelt Library and Museum was similarly booked, so we looked around the Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Education Center (really).
We drove to a historic Huguenot street in New Paltz, but couldn’t find anything other than plaques. There are supposed to be some historic buildings there, but we sure didn’t see any.
So we had lunch at the Mill House Brewing Company in Poughkeepsie and went back to the house. When all else fails, you can count on Poughkeepsie.
Friday we drove into New York City and took a food tour of Greenwich Village. On the way in we got a stunning view of the Statue of Liberty from the George Washington Bridge.
Other than a few airport layovers, I’d never been to NYC before, so I had very little sense of NYC geography. Weirdly, Greenwich Village seemed completely familiar to me by way of movies, TV shows, books, and music.
The tour was a historical walking tour with food samples at a number of historic restaurants and shops, mostly from the early 20th century. A knowledgeable and gregarious guide, combined with perfect weather, made it a fun afternoon.
And in a triumph of 21st century innovation, it turns out that you can reserve a parking space in NYC. Driving into the city and parking was surprisingly non-impossible.
The tour also included a stop in Washington Square Park, where we beheld many wonders.
I arrived at the Airbnb in Highland at 6:00, and everyone else had an ETA of 7:30, so I walked to Poughkeepsie across a former railroad trestle that’s been repurposed as the Walkway Over the Hudson.
The Airbnb is a newly renovated house right on the river. Deer roam around outside. It’s quiet and peaceful, except for the trains that pass by every two to three hours, 24 hours a day.
The first night was Anna’s final night working at the restaurant on campus. We had dinner there and sat where we could make faces at her through the glass (aka the fishbowl). There were many desserts.
Graduation was the next morning. Anna’s boyfriend Will was there ahead of us to save seats and procure the extra ticket we needed. “Where there’s a Will, there’s a way,” I said, wittily. Everyone silently appreciated my joke.
Afterward, there was a reception with a seemingly endless supply of free food catered by the students. Twelve tables of high-quality comestibles. In an all-you-can-eat situation, you have an obligation to eat all you can, and I believe I met that obligation.
But the day took a dark turn that evening when we took Anna back to her dorm. CIA Security had blocked off one of the entrances, but we couldn’t see that until we had turned off of the highway. Not wanting to back out onto the highway, Rick moved the barricade and we went through.
We were spotted by CIA Security, who followed us to the dorm in a car and one of those golf cart things. It was a little touchy at first, but the security guys were somewhat placated when they found out that Rick had replaced the barricade after we went through.
Really, it was just the guy in the car who seemed concerned. The guy in the cart was pretty mellow. (Eric: “I’m sorry we caused you all this trouble.” Security guy in cart: “Oh, I don’t care.”)
Fun fact: The security people have brass lapel pins that say C.I.A. SECURITY.
At 6:00 AM on Saturday I voyaged east in the sport jalopy to grace Alcalde with my presence over Memorial Day weekend. The trip was uneventful until I got to Ritzville, where I was stopped by a local law enforcement professional for doing 28 in a 20 zone. Apparently there was some sort of big flashing light with the speed limit on it. Whatever. He also had me sign my registration, which I guess is a thing you’re supposed to do, although I don’t think I ever have. But then he let me go! No ticket or anything. Weird.
Anyhow, I spent several intriguing minutes touring downtown Ritzville.
When I arrived at CFP, I got through the gate by drafting behind someone else, then just walked in Alcalde’s front door, which was inexplicably unlocked. All his weapons and electronics are no match for my wily ways.
Alcalde had spent most of the previous week hauling his gun safe up from Riverside, and I arrived just in time to help him unload it from the truck. It was an impressive display of teamwork, similar to our team efforts finding Al in Seborga or putting up monkey bunting. However, when we got it in place and he opened the safe, it was full of styrofoam packing peanuts! No guns at all! Seems like a lot of trouble for a safe full of packing peanuts.
Sunday we made a pilgrimage to Daft Badger Brewery in Coeur d’Alene and then wandered around downtown Coeur d’Alene a little, where we saw many wonders. There was a steampunk salmon robot, a woman carrying a rabbit, the Dingle Building, a place selling monster sushi, a bug in a giant flower, and a moose statue. The Lucky Monkey had t-shirts, but none of them had monkeys on them.
My main goal this weekend, other than mooching off Alcalde, was to set up my new GoPro and Karma drone and complete a test flight. It took longer than expected, because I had to download several firmware upgrades to make the 2016 drone work with the 2018 camera, but I eventually got it all sorted out. It was pretty windy out, so I took it on a simple maiden flight in the sun room that is so popular with local turkeys. It was just a simple take-off and landing, which I accomplished in a quick ten-second flight. Mission accomplished!
And so what if I broke two of the propellers. I had spares, so no big deal. I’m sure SpaceX and Blue Origin have similar setbacks with their test flights.
You might notice the turkey doots in front of the crashed copter. Turkeys have made the sun room their own, to the point where it really makes more sense to call it the Turkey Room.
Throughout the weekend, a good quantity of barbacoa, spicy jerk chicken, and Alcalde’s private stash of Pere Ubu Ale from the wilds of New York nearly made up for the lack of bunting or IceJJFish soundtrack.
All in all it was a smashing success, and another worthy contribution to the grand tradition of invading Alcalde’s home.
The inaugural visitation of Alcalde’s new mansion-chateau (aka Casa Fancy Pants) was a smashing success, as measured by total calorie count and whatever the opposite of cinematic artistry is.
Al, of course, had failed to show up, and sent a hogshead of popcorn as penance. The ricin made the flavor a little odd, but we got used to it.
Lobo arrived Thursday, and he and Alcalde sat around all day. But when I got there on Friday the party really got rolling as Lobo and Alcalde shoved me into the back seat of the Taco and we crossed the state line into exotic Idaho. We had lunch at the Daft Badger in Coeur d’Alene, where Lobo got a half order of pulled-pork nachos which seemed to constitute at least 20% of world nacho output and allowed Lobo to eat increasingly congealed breakfasts for the rest of the weekend.
While in the Coeur d’Alene area, we investigated the mysterious happenings in the erstwhile town of Dudley. Alcalde claims that there was no collusion regarding either Dudley or nearby Cataldo, but we haven’t been watching him the whole time, so who knows what he gets up to. And we didn’t find Dudley, exactly, but we did find Dudley Heights, which is either a real place or a sign that someone put up as a joke.
As a housewarming gift, I brought a package of brightly colored cocktail monkeys, a beloved memory for anyone who had anything approaching a normal childhood in the ’60s or ’70s. They were put to good use as bunting, as well as flair for what were apparently pharmaceutical-grade mojitos. Memories of the rest of that evening are a little fuzzy.
But up and at ’em the next day! Alcalde made us some excellent frittatas, although Lobo just chipped away at his nacho clump. After that, a little “hair of the limón” by way of limoncino shots, followed by panther cookie chasers, and we were off to get a mediocre lunch at the English Setter Brewery.
A drive up Mt. Spokane got us not quite to the top, as the road was closed due to inclement weather. We stopped in a nearby parking area to walk around and saw a group of people training rescue dogs. One of the trainers would hide under some camouflage netting, sitting out in an open area and looking absurdly obvious. Then one of the dogs would run around while some of the other trainers would shout encouragement. If the dog found the camouflaged lump that was right in front of it, everyone would cheer and congratulate the dog. If the dog appeared to be having trouble, an arm would reach out from under the netting and squeeze a squeaky toy. Sometimes the dog would still have trouble. The dogs all appeared to be having a good time, but I don’t like the chances of anyone who needs to be rescued by one.
That evening Alcalde provided some excellent steak, grilled to perfection by Lobo on the ostensibly indoor grill. However, we had to open the door to let the smoke out, which really makes it sort of an indoor/outdoor grill.
Things were a bit touch-and-go, moviewise, as Alcalde couldn’t figure out his own audio/video equipment. Luckily, he was able to kludge together a workaround that allowed us to continue with what after all is the central feature of any mash.
Over the course of three evenings we watched Birdemic, Zoltan: Hound of Dracula, Wild Guitar, and The Choppers, the last two featuring Arch Hall Jr. Alcalde fell asleep for all four of them.
On the last full day, after Lobo finally finished his nachos, we went patrolling on Alcalde’s estate grounds. Much of it consists of scrub and deer doots, but it’s still well worth visiting, especially after the taxidermy animatronic show and boat ride goes in.
After a warm-up like that, there was only one thing left to do: Visit downtown Spokane. This centered around the Riverfront, which is, it turns out, along the river. We saw a tower, and a big wagon, and a trash-eating goat, and–as the pièce de résistance–the Riverfront SkyRide, which is like the Disneyland Skyway except that it doesn’t go to Tomorrowland. (Technically, neither does the Skyway, because Disneyland removed it years ago. The SkyRide has the advantage of still existing.)
Then we had a quick lunch at a downtown brewpub that had TVs on every available surface, all showing football games. There were even three TVs in the restroom.
For reasons that are not clear, Lobo scheduled his return flight for 6:30 in the morning, so he got up before 5:00 and spent some time stumbling around and singing songs from Wild Guitar. Then Alcalde and I dumped him at the airport and had a leisurely coffee and pastry at Rocket Bakery on the way back.
On the drive over on Friday I had hit a pothole on the 90 and damaged my tire, so driving back was a little iffy. My sport jalopy has run-flat tires, which means that it can run for about 50 miles at 0 psi, but also has no spare. That’s probably useful if I’m fleeing foreign agents or random ladrones who have shot my tires out, but the trip from Spokane Valley to Redmond would be a little far in the event of a blowout. Fortunately, I made it back without incident and I can get the tire replaced for only $362.
The one disappointment of the weekend was the lack of fossils in the floor slate. They’re supposed to be there, but Lobo and I did a thorough investigation of the slate and found no fossils at all. That’s undoubtedly going to reduce CFP’s Zestimate.
I had a Berliner. President Kennedy was not involved.
Sweden doesn’t have gløgg. They have glögg. Glögg is basically the same as gløgg, except that it’s glögg and not gløgg.