Thursday, November 24, 2011

Last Stop: Rochester...

After leaving New York City, Monte and I headed off to Rochester, NY. This would be my last travel stop of 2011. I love coming to Rochester. First, it's a cool city to visit. Second, I've got two friends who live here, Jon Gary and Mike Gladstone. I've known Jon since high school, but I've known Mike almost 45 years. It's always good to see them and hang out.

Monte and I landed, got to our hotel, and then went to dinner at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. I've long heard stories of this famous eatery, and was mildly excited that I would, finally, get to experience it:

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Rochester, New York...

We walked in, and the place was packed, and it's not like it was any special occasion. It was simply 8:00pm on a Wednesday night. We put our name on the waiting list (about 40 minutes) and went to the bar. After two beers, we were paged for our table.

Now, being a bar-b-que joint, you might expect that would be an array of hot sauces on the table. On that point, you would be quite correct. There were. They ranged in their "hotness" from hot sauce made for sissies to hot sauce made for, well, Satan. Think I'm kidding? I give you "Devil's Duel":

Devil's Duel hot sauce at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que...
Now, I'm not really a fan of ridiculously spicy food. But, hey, I was at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. I had to try some, didn't I?

Now, while I was more than happy to try some, I still tend to be cautious. I uncapped the bottle. The smell hit me. You know that "hot sauce" smell which burns your nose hairs and makes you lose your breath? Yeah, that was it. It hit me, and it hit me hard. After catching my breath, I dipped the tip of my knife into the bottle. While I was relatively sure that I didn't want to pour this all over my dinner, I was equally sure that I really did, in fact, want to try it.

You know how you do things in life that, as soon as you do them, you kinda' wish you hadn't?

You ever feel like that?

Yeah, me too.

Don't get me wrong. Heat can be good. Vegas, for instance, can get hot, but it's a good "hot". Devil's Duel, however, isn't good. It's bad. It's very, very bad.

If I've learned one thing about hot sauce, it's that they usually like to sneak up on you. It's as if, after you try them, they want you to have enough time to look at your snickering friends and say "That's not so bad" before your hair catches fire. Well, Devil's Duel isn't like that. I'm pretty sure the back of my head exploded as soon as the tip of the knife hit my tongue, and it lingered for a long time.

When it came time to order dinner, I was looking for variety. I opted for the "Tres Hombres":

The "Tres Hombres". Clockwise from the top: Cornbread, cole slaw,
beef brisket, ribs, pulled pork, and macaroni and cheese...
If you ever find yourself at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, I recommend the Tres Hombres. For the Devil's Duel, I recommend you exercise caution.

The next day (Thursday) we were off to visit more clients. We drove to Canandaigua, got our business out of the way, and decided it was time for lunch. We found our way to Mac's Philly Steaks. Mac's has a couple of locations, and they serve up, well, Philly cheese steaks:

Mac's Philly Steaks in Canadaigua, New York...

I love a good sandwich, but I don't often get cheese steaks. To be honest, I've not really enjoyed the ones I've had. But, I figured I'd give it another shot. After all, with a name like "Mac's Philly Steaks", how bad could they be?

The truth? Best damn Philly cheese steak I've ever had. It was seriously, seriously good, and cheap, to boot:

A Philly cheese steak at Mac's...
We had a show to do that night, so we got back to Rochester and made our way over to the venue. 

Now, I live in southern California. Out here, "winter" officially hits when the mercury crawls down to a brisk 45 degrees. At that point, southern Californians are lighting fires and keeping the animals inside. I'm not used to snow in November, but that's exactly what we got:


White out conditions fall on Rochester...

More snow. More cold, evil snow...

After our show, I took Monte back to his hotel, as he was flying out early the next morning. I found my way back to my hotel and watched television until I fell asleep.

Rochester was, at one time, the home of the gajillion-dollar Eastman-Kodak. At one time, they employed over 70,000 people. Those days are, unfortunately, long gone. Now, Eastman-Kodak employs just over 7,000. Let's face it, Kodak's stronghold was in film. Film is, by and large, dead. Nobody really uses it anymore, and they haven't for some time. Kodak, despite having developed the first megapixel digital camera sensor, seemingly did nothing with it for a long time.

Hindsight being 20/20, maybe they should have.

I was taking Friday off, as I'd be working Saturday and travelling on Sunday, so Jon offered to take me to the George Eastman house. Eastman founded Kodak in 1892 and, financially, the company served him quite well.

The George Eastman house is huge. No, it's not Hearst Castle huge, but it's still huge:

The George Eastman House in Rochester, New York...

The coolest thing for me about the house was the exhibit of vintage cameras they had on hand. Hey, you might expect that, but it was still really cool to see some of these. I collect cameras, and I actually have some of these same models, but these things were in amazing condition:

The highlighted camera was the "Fotoman", which produced a .1 megapixel black and white image...

A collection of vintage cameras at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York...

Novelty cameras on display...

A Japanese camera disguised as a wristwatch, circa 1948...

A collection of Brownie and "Bellows" cameras...
In his later years, George Eastman was in failing health and constant pain. On March 14, 1932, he committed suicide with a single gunshot to the heart. He left a note which read simply "My work is done. Why wait?"

If you're a photographer, the George Eastman House is a must-see in Rochester.

I worked at a client's on Saturday, and then got together with Jon and Mike (and his family) at Mike's house. It was a good, relaxing (if not somewhat tipsy) way to spend my last night in Rochester. I really, really look forward to my next visit.

I think I'll wait 'til the weather warms up a bit, though. Maybe July?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

New York City...

For me, 2011 started out just like every other year has since 2005, but it's ended quite differently.

I started the year by working the same territory I have since 2005; Canada. In September, though, things got a little bit changed around, and I'm ending the year in the northeastern United States. The new year will bring new challenges, to be sure, but I'm eager to get started.

For my last trip of the year, I went to New York. I flew to New York City on Tuesday, November 15. I had a bit of a travel snafu in Denver, and that resulted in me arriving at LaGuardia not at 8:30pm like originally scheduled, but 11:10pm. By the time my car picked me up and got me to my hotel on West 26th street, it was almost midnight. With dinner no longer being an option, I wandered down to the hotel bar to hang out with my good friend, Mr. Sam Adams.

Now, from this point, this could be known as "The Food Blog". Let's face it, man, when you come to New York, there's no shortage of great places to eat, and there's probably no place on the planet where you can find a more varied selection of restaurants at which to eat. I love places like this. My waistline may not appreciate as much, but I love a good meal.

So, I woke up Wednesday morning, hit the shower, and got dressed. This was New York City, after all, and bagels were calling me. I asked the concierge for a recommendation, and was out the door on my way to the Corner Cafe.

You can always tell that an eatery is a good joint when the line is out the door. That was damn near the case with the Corner Cafe. But, despite the long line, it moved really quickly, which was good, because I was jonesin' for a salted bagel. I was tempted, mind you, by the cannolis, but I fought the temptation:


The cannolis at the Corner Cafe on West 24 Street...

A salted bagel and a cup of black coffee from the Corner Cafe...

Monte was driving in from Long Island, so I had plenty of time to walk the two blocks to the Corner Cafe and back. It was raining a bit but, somehow, that didn't seem that bad. I was actually diggin' the weather a bit.

Once Monte got to the city and picked me up, we went to visit some clients. On our way to visit the first one, it dawned on me just how many quintessential "New York" things you see while you travel through the city. Things like the Flatiron Building have been here for years. And, sadly, the "Freedom Tower" has not:

The Flatiron Building in New York City...
The Freedom Tower, not yet completed, in New York City...

Now, as I mentioned earlier, this could easily be called "The Food Blog". In New York City, if you're gonna' eat a quick meal, it's gotta' be pizza. I mean, c'mon, it's New York. We found our way down to John's of Bleecker Street. Want a nice slice of pizza? Well, don't bother stopping here, because you can't get a slice. They sell full pies only and, while not the best pizza I've ever had, it was pretty damn good:

The menu cover at John's of Bleecker Street
A nice slice of good ol' New York City pizza...
After we ate, we had to make our way over to JFK International, as we had to fly to Rochester, NY late that afternoon. I'd spent a whopping 16 hours in the Big Apple. It was far too short a time, of course, but definitely more than most people get to enjoy...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Playing Catch Up...

As I sit here in the Aviator Club at Denver International, it dawns on me that I've been mildly remiss is updating this with regards to my recent travels. What the last one we had? Old Fort Niagara?

Very well, then.

I had to go up to Toronto for a week and wrap up some final business with some accounts up there. I'll tell ya', trying to keep up with two territories ha been mildly trying, but I knew that would be the deal when I told my boss that I wanted the northeast. Even still, though, it's been a lot of travel.

After finishing up in New York, I made the drive north. The drive to Toronto is a relatively short one; maybe two hours or so. I found my way to the border and crossed into Canada:

The US-Canadian border...
Approaching the border...
It was Monday; Halloween, and I would be picking my buddy Michael Lille up at Toronto Airport. Michael is also the guy who'll be taking over Canada from me.

I made my way to Toronto, collected Mike at the airport, and we headed off to our hotel.

The next day, we had a show in Newmarket, Ontario. I was excited to have Mike as my travelling partner. Mike is a ridiculously good guitarist, having opened up for people like Warren Zevon and Bob Dylan. Also, people like Victor Wooten and Alison Kraus have played on his albums. In short, Mike's the real deal:

Michael Lille...
The next day, we took a drive out to the little town of Listowel, which has a population of about 5,000. On the drive out there, we found ourselves passing through Mennonite country. While I don't know a great deal about them,, I assume they're much like the Amish in many respects. For one thing, I know they like their horses and buggies:

Mennonites near Listowel, Ontario...
This is also "farm country", and some of these farms are pretty big by back-woods Ontario standards:

Farms near Listowel, Ontario...
Horses on a farm near Listowel...
.
After our week was done, Mike flew out of Toronto, but I had to drive back to New York. I decided to make a return visit to Niagara Falls, as the weather was far better than it was the first time I'd stopped there during this trip.

I won't revisit all of the amazing stats about Niagara Falls, I'll just share some pictures:




Niagara Falls...
I made my way back south, and settled into my hotel. This marked the end of my last extended trip to Canada and, to be honest, I think I'm gonna' miss it...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Ghost Adventures...

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm a big fan of "Ghost Adventures" on the Travel Channel. I don't know what it is, but I just absolutely love that show. If, for some reason, my DVR fails to record it while I'm gone, it's upsetting, and sadness ensues.

Recently, the "GAC" (Ghost Adventures Crew) did a segment at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in the Old Town section of San Diego. I've been there a couple of times, and it was kinda' cool to see the GAC go through these areas where I'd already been.

Now, while these guys have travelled the globe, they do most of their ghost hunting here in the United States. A lot of it is done in New England, and that's where I'm working now. Why not visit more of the places that they've investigated? That's my new quest. When they investigate someplace in New England, it's going to go on my list of places to visit. No, I don't know why, other than I think it would be cool to go shooting in the same places they've investigated.

So, yeah, maybe I really am a geek.

The first of these places would be Old Fort Niagara. Old Fort Niagara has been occupied (at different times, of course) by three different countries. The French established the post in 1679. The British took it from the French in 1759, and the United States took it from the British in 1796. It was captured by the British during the war of 1812, and was ceded again to the United States in 1815. It sits at the mouth of the Niagara River:


The Niagara River, as seen from Old Fort Niagara...

This is a fort with over 300 years of history behind it, and there's a lot to see. For me, one of the cooler things to see was the United States flag that was captured by the British in 1812. It's had some minor repairs done to it, but it's much the same as it was 199 years ago:

The US Flag, now stained (yet very well preserved), which was captured by the British in 1812...

The entry way into the fort is impressive. It's a massive stone archway which, at one time, housed a working draw bridge. While the workings of the bridge are still in place, the bridge has been replaced with a deck for visitors to enter on:

The entrance to Old Fort Niagara...

The most imposing structure of the entire compound is known as "The French Castle". The French built the four-floor castle in 1726. When GAC was here, they determined that this was the most haunted site in the entire complex. That doesn't really surprise me. This is a massive structure which has certainly seen its fair share of violent activity:

The French Castle, built in 1726...

With four floors to explore, this would take some time. The second floor was the place to go, as it contained everything from officer's quarters to a chapel:

The chapel, located on the second floor of the French Castle...

One of the more reputedly haunted areas is near an old well, which sits just inside the main entrance to the castle. As legend has it, a French officer had his head handed to him (literally) in a duel, and his decapitated body was thrown into the well. Now a headless apparition roams the castle looking for its head:

Here a French officer met his demise..

There isn't a big military presence at Fort Niagara anymore. The only active duty military still here is the US Coast Guard, which is on hand to perform maintenance. I guess if you have to be stationed somewhere, there are worse places to be:


The US Coast Guard Station at Old Fort Niagara...

As I was driving out, I noticed a small cemetery just outside the main grounds of the fort. Now, even though I have a thing for old graveyards, I opted not to get out and walk around. It was cold, I was tired and,w ell, I just didn't have it in me. Besides, this isn't the last time I'll be able to visit here. Even still, I did take the opportunity to snap a quick shot:

A cemetery at Old Fort Niagara...

With a full day behind me, I figured it was time to head back to my hotel, and get ready to drive to Toronto on Monday...

A Final Run...

It was with a little trepidation that I started my last trip. It would be my last extended trip to Canada, and it was rather bittersweet. While I'm excited (and more than a bit apprehensive) to start working in the northeast, the fact of the matter is that I have a lot of friends in Canada who, sadly, I'll get to see far less often.

My trip actually began in western New York. I was going to visit clients in Buffalo and Rochester before heading up to Toronto.

The first thing that hit me was the cold. While the east coast was getting battered with snow, western New York wasn't. But it was getting the frigid temperatures. During my drive from Buffalo to Jamestown, I drove through a rather intense snow storm. The snow wasn't sticking but, man, was it falling.

My ride for this trip was a 2011 Dodge Durango. All I'll say about it is "Yes, please". What a nice, comfortable ride this thing is:


After getting some work done around Buffalo and Jamestown, I decided to drive over to Rochester. One of my biggest clients is there, but this trip was also about getting to see my oldest friend, Mike Gladstone. We met at House Of Guitars, then went out for some lunch. It's always good to see Mike, and this new gig will mean I'll be able to visit him and his family more often.



Mike and his very mellow cat...

After lunch, we went over to his house to hang out for a bit. Mike's built a pretty amazing studio in his basement. I can't quote the technical specs, but I know it's a "room within a room", in that it's separate from the rest of the house:


Mike in Tonesearch Studio...

We had a couple beers and, after Mike's lovely wife Tamara got home, we decided to order up a pizza. Man, I'd forgotten how good New York pizza could be. I don't even know if this was good New York pizza, I just know that it beat, hands down, anything you can find in San Diego.

I had to go back to Buffalo for some weekend business so, around 8:00pm, I bid them farewell. It was a good, albeit too short, visit with the Gladstone's, and I'm looking forward to seeing them again the week after next.

Weather-wise, Saturday was kinda' crappy. It was raining, and I hate driving in the rain. I did, though, and got my business taken care of early enough to leave me time to head up to Niagara Falls. I'd never been to the American side of the falls, so this would be a first for me. I wasn't crazy about the weather, but figured I'd give it a shot.

Niagara Falls is a pretty amazing site. On the American side, 75,000 gallons of water goes over the falls every second. That's 4.5 million gallons every single minute. That's 270 million gallons every hour, or just about 6.5 billion gallons every single day. That's a lot of water:  

The American Falls (with Bridal Veil Falls on the right) as seen from Skylon Tower in Canada...
As impressive as that is, though, it pales in comparison to what goes over Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side. In a single day, over 58 billion gallons of water cascades down the falls. Granted, Horseshoe Falls is much larger, but numbers like that just boggle the mind.

I made my way around a bit to try to take some photos which weren't of the falls. The vantage points for good shots of the falls were, despite the lousy weather, quite crowded. So, I hiked up a path I'd found and shot a few:


Part of the Niagara River...

One of the coolest things to see at Niagara Falls comes only at night. At 7:00pm, they light the falls. I only had the Canon G12 with me, so the quality of this photo isn't the best in the world, but it's good enough to give you a good idea:

The American Falls, lit from Canada...

Now, despite the absolute grandeur of Niagara Falls, the day was not without its ugliness. In this case, the ugliness came earlier in the day, in the form of someone who, for whatever reason, was challenged by the fabulous weather and, in hindsight, was probably wishing he'd stayed home:

Hey, maybe what they say about New York drivers IS true...

So, despite the weather, it was a pretty good photo-day. I'd have one more day in western New York, and was hopeful that the weather would improve...


Let's Talk Apps...

From time to time, I'll be talking about cell phone apps as I find good ones. Let's face it, it's almost impossible to get thro...