Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What the puck?

So, now that I've started my blogging renaissance by time-traveling all the way back to February I figure let's just continue on playing this game of catch up. We arrived home from Colorado the day before my birthday, leaving Jason precious little time to get his act together. But, as he usually does, he managed to sort something out.

He knew he had to travel to Philly for work later in the week. He knew he wouldn't be able to fly due to having had a small procedure on his leg. He knew the Hurricanes were playing the Devils in New Jersey that Wednesday evening. He knew that Newark is less than two hours from Philly.

We smelled a road trip.

But not before some birthday cake pie. Key Lime. Accented with colorful wax drippings. He even scraped the whipped cream off because he knows I hate it. That's true love right there.

But back to the road trip. We figured D.C. was a pretty good stopping point on the drive and a nice enough place to find a nice posh bed and a nice delicious dinner. And because our timing was actually perfect that day, we arrived to our top floor, corner room just in time for sunset. I think we paid extra for this view. Worth every penny.

Our hotel was located on Pennsylvania Avenue, which made no sense because we weren't nearly to Pennsylvania yet. But I hear it's a pretty prestigious address.

And I guess it is. Our neighbors had a HUGE house. But they didn't seem very friendly. The place was surrounded by an iron gate and guarded by guys with semi-automatic weapons. But they were nice enough to let me stick my camera through the fence at least.

Once we realized the neighbors weren't coming out to say hi, we ventured toward our next stop. And on the way, we happened upon the World War II memorial. There are 56 granite pillars - each inscribed with the name of one of the 48 contiguous states along with the District of Columbia, the Alaska Territory and Territory of Hawaii, the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Since they seem to like Pennsylvania so much here, we chose our photo-op accordingly.

After the let-down of the (non) encounter with our other neighbors, we were very pleased to see this one had a much more liberal policy regarding social callers.

Even if the host was a bit stiff. (Harharharharhar...)

You know, I hadn't visited D.C. since I was a sophomore in high school. And I can assure you the impact of viewing the seemingly endless rows of names on the Vietnam Wall didn't stick with me like it should have. So I'm glad I got to see it again.

Finally, after a pretty ridiculous dinner at a French bistro our evening was done. It was very early rising the next morning. We had to get on the road to be in Philly by 10 am. The only benefit of waking up that early was this:

So, that's our D.C., from sunset over the Washington Monument to sunrise over the Capitol Building.

After dropping Jason off at the office, I drove to our hotel in Philly to check in. It was less than one mile between the two and I only missed one turn and only peed my pants five times. City drivings. I waz nawt made for it.

I passed the next few hours plotting the Caniac invasion into hostile territory. When the time came to make the journey, we removed the Hurricanes season ticket holder magnets from the back of the car and hit the turnpike.

Arriving at the Prudential Center in Newark was quite a shock to our southern, small-market senses. We pulled up to the attached parking deck and I caught sight of a sign bearing a Devils logo and reading: EVENT PARKING $30. I almost choked on my own tongue. I actually said out loud to Jason "They don't mean that, do they? Like, they're not serious, right? They're just trying to scare people off because they want you to park somewhere else. " Oh. But they were serious. (To compare, parking at Hurricanes games is $10. And we only pay $7 with our STH discount.) Whaddayagonnado, eh?

But we were shown to a lovely parking spot quite near the arena entrance so we grabbed our 'Canes jerseys, carried them strategically so that the logo wasn't easily visible and made our way.

WE'RE IN. Operation Caniac Invasion complete.

We were there pretty early since we gave ourselves plenty of extra travel time in case of bad traffic or navigation failure. Which meant we got to watch warm-ups. Which meant I scrawled "It's my birthday!!! Puck?" on a piece of paper and held it up. Which meant Troy Bodie flipped me an official NHL practice puck over the glass! (Look, I know it wasn't technically my birthday. But this trip was my birthday present so it's close enough. And Troy Bodie doesn't need to know the details, mmkay?)

And here's my analysis of the game, in a nutshell:

*Okay, Kovalchuck makes different amounts in different years but that's the number you get when you straight divide his preposterous $100 million contract over the ludicrous 15 years he's signed for. ARE YOU SERIOUS???? It's a FRACTION of a cent away from being all 6's!!! He plays for the DEVILS!!! I'm not saying he sold his soul to anyone or anything for that contract... BUT I'M JUST SAYING.

And while I'm not saying things... Can I just say how nice everyone was to us? Seriously. From the ticket-takers to the concession workers to the seat ushers to (about 98% of) the fans. We were stopped by a few fans who wanted to chat about hockey and wanted to know if we'd really come all the way from Carolina for the game. We were warmly welcomed by the guys in the seats in front of us. In fact, they were such good sports that they turned around to give us an on-the-down-low high five when the 'Canes scored. I can only hope that visiting fans at the RBC are treated similarly. (The well-behaved ones anyway. Feel free to accidentally-on-purpose spill your beer on the a-holes.) (I KID.)

The best part was that we were able to meet up with fellow-former-London-expats Scott and Libby between periods. And we had such a nice time chatting it up with them that we invited them down to Raleigh to catch a game at the RBC. And dang if they didn't show up a couple months later. And dang if we didn't have such a good time hanging out that they're coming back to North Carolina and we're renting a cottage in Ocracoke together in July. Fun times surely await!

And I'll probably only give them shit about being Buffalo and Jersey fans if we dip into the beer supply a bit too much one night.

Which is to say I will 100% be giving them shit about being Buffalo and Jersey fans.

P.S. The Hurricanes lost. And that stung a little.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Party in the USA...The Rocky Mountain Hiiiiiiiigh

I told you I'd be back soon! I promised and everything! And here I am!

I figured I'd start up way back where I left off so many months ago. Mainly because Suze is currently traveling and isn't likely to be checking my blog, therefore allowing me to say whatever I want with no whinging from her.

Since it's been a rather long time since I last visited this topic, feel free to review here: Party in the USA...The Raleigh Chronicles.

So. Denver. We did this part on our own since Phuze were very keen to start skiing willingly pitching themselves off perfectly good mountains as soon as possible.

The first day was a bit of a haze because I was not feeling well at all. I vaguely recall getting up, showering, getting dressed, getting dragged out of the hotel and down the street to a drugstore and being made to take some medication. So I wasn't entirely sure at the time whether this pegasus was real or not. I can clearly see now that it was a sculpture. That's kind of a relief if I'm honest.

One thing I recall very clearly is the cafe we visited on Larimer Street in LoDo. I remember it because at that moment, nothing in the world had ever tasted better than that cappuccino and warm flaky, chocolatey pastry. It's called The Market and should you ever find yourself at Larimer Square, I highly recommend you stop in.

We also happened upon this very hip hat shop and I bought myself a fancy little 20's-style cloche hat. Thanks Goorin Bros! (Just a couple months later, who do I see on tv in Montreal buying what appeared to be her very own Goorin Bros. 20's-style cloche hat but Bravo's own Bethenny.)

Some very clever crocheting on this otherwise ugly chain link fence bordering a construction site. It ran the whole length of the fence, which I thought was mighty impressive. (Thankfully, I was feeing better by this point and the medicated haze had worn off a bit. So, unlike the pegasus encounter, there was no confusion at the time as to whether or not these flowers were real.)

Day two and I was feeling fine, just fine thankyouverymuch. Now, get me some beer. In fact, get me on a beer walking tour. Micro-brews only please. And let's start at Great Divide.

Your basic brewery operation here... But let's zoom in on barrel number 7.

They believe.

Long story short... Beer = good. Me = tired. Bedtime.

We had an early start the next day and we were eventually en route to the high country to meet back up with Phuze. And we almost made it there without stopping at a micro-brewery for a sampler. Almost. All the way to Frisco. So close.

Our arrival in Breckenridge was preceded by a metric shit-ton of snow. Most of which landed on the patio of our rental condo. Anyone up for a bbq or little dipsy in the hot tub?? Awesome! You grab the shovel; I'll alert the avalanche authorities!

Phuze set right in to making us feel at home with a delicious, (and personalized!) dinner.

The next day, I braved the outdoors and the millions of giant, icy death sticks just waiting to drop off and plunge into my skull. (Seriously, do you see the one that hangs down to the bottom of the window frame???)

One thing I probably should have mentioned is that I DO NOT SKI. I tried it once. I hated it. So, you go ahead and fling yourself off the top of a mountain and careen down an icy slope with nothing more than a couple of carbon fiber sticks strapped to your feet. I'll meet you in the lodge for a cocktail when you can't feel your fingers or toes anymore and need a nice thawing out by the roaring fire where I've been reading my book all day with a mug of hot cocoa in my hand and warm cosy Emu boots wrapped around my feet.

But, you know, you three enjoy!

However, despite my aversion to skiing, I was game for an hour or so of snow tubing. So Jason and I trucked ourselves over to Keystone to do just that. Plus, GONDOLA RIDE! ZOMGSUPERAWESOMEYAY!

Did I mention the GONDOLA RIDE?!?!?

Or the views from the GONDOLA RIDE?!?!?

Because they were pretty awesome.

Look at me! I'm sporty! Watch me sit in this here giant tube while some strapping young college student gives me a massive shove down one of these here pre-carved out lanes with plenty of soft snow built up on the sides in case my giant tube goes flying out of control. I fancy myself quite the daredevil.

Here's a really bad scan of the photo we bought there. It's basically us, mid-slope, trying to look like we're not crapping our ski pants.

I know it doesn't look all that steep from the bottom but um, let's just say we picked up a pretty decent amount of speed. I seriously thought the centrifugal force was going to rip my toque off my head on one of the trips down.

And on the final day of our mountain adventure, we drove through the Colorado countryside, making our way back to Denver with a pitstop in Fort Collins. There are exactly four things to do in Fort Collins.

You can get fitted for a nice new 10-gallon hat, as Suze and Phil demonstrate. This involves standing on the sidewalk in somewhat close proximity to any object in your immediate environment that could be made into a hat by another person in your party who is working to find the perfect camera angle to get said object to appear to be sitting on your head.

You can observe the sheer terror on the face of this fish who is about to be caught by that bear, who will surely eat him, even though he looks friendly-ish. (If there's one thing I know about bears, it's that no matter how friendly-ish they look, the will maul your face off and/or eat you.)

You can look at the colorful horse and see if you can find his naughty bits.

And finally, it was time for our visit to the crown jewel of Fort Collins, the fourth and final thing to do - the New Belgium Brewing Company. Or as most of us know them, the makers of delicious Fat Tire Amber Ale. This company has a whimsical and wonderful back story and I urge you to check it out (Though the one I linked to there on the website is very edited down and really why don't you just go to Colorado and find out for yourself right there in person, huh?) because I can't possibly write it all here.

How any brewery tour worth its salt starts - with beer for one and all.

Portrait time. Attempt #1. Suze = not ready. Me = definitely not ready. Phil = marginally ready but doesn't look entirely happy about the readiness levels of Suze or myself.

Attempt #2. Suze = still not ready. Me = super ready. Phil = marginally ready but appears as though Suze's unreadiness is creeping over to him.

Attempt #3. That's about as good as it's going to get, I'm afraid.

Blah blah blah bicycles.

Blah blah blah bicycle tire rims hinging from the ceiling.

Blah blah blah beer bottle light fixture.

And finally, the moment we'd all been waiting patiently for... A new-born, just off the bottling line glass of Fat Tire. Which we enjoyed...overlooking the bottling plant. See how I brought that all together there?

And then, the tour was over. Or so we thought. But then our guide lowered the boom on us. You wanna get out? You gotta go down the swirly slide. Unless you're a big ol' scaredy cat and you want us to call your mommy and tell her to pick you up when you get off the elevator which is right behind me here. Anyone want the elevator?? Anyone?? No? I didn't think so. Happy beering and hit the slide, bitches!

Something about this just didn't feel right. You're not supposed to get on a spiral slide after a beer tour. RIGHT??? But no way was I going to punk out with all those people watching...

Once we were finally safe, sound and downstairs (without the use of any stairs whatsoever), Jason lured Suze into a competitive game of washer toss. Little did Suze know that washer toss is the official game of the Sanger Hockey Tailgate Experience. (Just ask Scott and Libby if you'd like to learn more about the Sanger Hockey Tailgate Experience. They can tell you all about how Team Sanger beat Team Tune with some last minute strategery.)

When Suze and I spotted the silver Airstream trailer parked out front and open for all to explore, we knew it would be a treasure trove of fun. So let's go ahead and get the photo of the two of us totally cracking up out of the way right up front. (Because if you've been reading here for any length of time, you'll know that there is always one.) See? And see?

Now that's out of the way... It's more business as usual.

I think this is some kind of New Belgium Brewery timeline. Read it. If you dare.

And with that, Phuser's American adventure comes to an end. What's next for our merry band of hooligans? Who knows. But rest assured one or more of us will do something embarrassing and one or more of the others will be right there with a camera.