Archive for July, 2009

Excitement building here

 The countdown is on – the big trip starts on Sunday – the bikes are already there and I’m getting insanely excited. Here’s the route:

Big trip

Starting in Colorado – we head up through Yellowstone, up to Glacier Park near the border and then in a loop back down to the starting point. I saw a tiny fraction of the route last year and it was breathtaking. I can’t wait.

I am a bit worried about a few things though to be honest:

  •  quite a lot of rain forecast. Boo. NOT the plan for a summer holiday.
  • Likely to be lots of wiggly roads – meaning intense concentration and slow progress. So for a couple of days there will be severe danger of arse coma.
  • Idaho. I don’t actually know anything at all about Idaho but most of the vowel states I’ve been in have not been great. Illinois is OK but it is all downhill with Iowa, Indiana, Ohio.

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Elysian wheels

I know I’ve done nothing but complain about the cars here, the driving, the roads etc …but there’s hope. I’m completely hopelessly in love with driving again. This is what it took:



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It’s wurst than that….

This weekend we visited the Poconos Wurst festival, drawn by the promises of “it’s like an Oktoberfest in July”.


  • Folk dancing – check
  • People wearing dirndls and bells (?!) check
  • Sausages – check – although far fewer than you’d expect at a dedicated festival
  • Oompa bands – check
  • Lashings of German beer – erm well, not really. There were (oh the horror) some variants of Budweiser, some Leffe and Hoegaarden beer (Belgian of course. That might be close enough geographically for the Yanks but not for me!). Not a Hefeweizen in sight. The disappointment was huge but somewhat drowned in some local Amber Ale washed down with what they call brats.

The best part of the trip was the trip itself – which took us through some of the most beautiful Pennsylvania countryside. Following the Delaware river North revealed stunning rural scenes and many leafy lanes to zoom along. Glorious.

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Supermarket selection


I was at the local supermarket last and guess what I found in the international foods section – Jammie Dodgers!  I don’t recall seeing any in British supermarkets since the 1970s but all the same they filled me with nostalgia (probably imaginary nostalgia as I also don’t recall ever eating them at home.)

In any case this made me curious – so rather than the usual cursory scan of the shelves looking for Marmite, I actually had a good old look at what “British” fare is  offered here. Apparently the local population consume vast quantities of Wilkin and Sons jam (which I’m pretty sure tastes almost exactly like American jam). Shepherd’s Pie mix, Bisto granules, fruit gums, barrys tea (never heard of it), Ribena, Yorkie bars and Birds Custard. What a peculiar selection. It got me wondering whether any local Asians come and have a snigger at what’s in their aisles. Almost certainly.

Still, this IS a rather posh supermarket (Wegmans), if you go to one of the local Giants all you’ll find under “International” is pasta and a few tacos.

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Pretty much anywhere you drive in the good old US of A you where there are shops you’ll see a nail parlour of some description. Even in the current economic climate there are thousands of them. I’ve been wondering for some time how so many manage to stay in business. I think it has a lot to do with the little luxuries they provide. Getting your nails done isn’t that expensive – for $20 or so you can indulge in a tiny amount of pampering.

Once I’d started thinking about it I started to notice that almost every American woman has their nails done. Curiously even the worst form of hippacrockapigadog that munters around in gigantic velour tracksuits with awful hair has fabulous nails. I think that might be because of all the bits that can look really good, almost anyone can have amazing nails without much effort or money.

Ashamed by the fact that I’ve been doing my own for all this time and curious to see what actually goes on in these places, I went for my first ever pedicure this week. Actually it was rather nice. You sit in a chair that massages your back while you get your feet washed, oiled, pummelled and your nails painted. In fact I might even go back.  I’m still letting the side down with my horrible fingernails though.Oh well, just for the time being I have fabulous toes (that hopefully distract from all the rope scars on my feet).

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Your perfect final resting place

This gem was spotted in Northern Pennsylvania in the Pocono mountains today. Words almost fail me…although I think they missed a trick with the logo.


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Independence day

Today is the fourth of July – Independence day. So far it has been GREAT. For a start it is a national holiday that gives you a three day weekend, also everyone seems to celebrate quietly at home so the roads are empty and there’s noone in the supermarket. The atmosphere is great though – everywhere is covered in flags and people are really happy to celebrate America’s birthday.

So what’s it all about? Essentially America’s liberation from British rule – or more specifically the rule of George III. A while back I visited the Liberty Bell in Pennsylvania and saw the text of the Declaration. It seems that they weren’t happy campers over here at all. Some of the grievances raised included “For imposing taxes on us without our consent” which seems pretty normal for a goverment but later they get into their stride claiming “He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.”Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

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Anyone for rounders?

I watched my second ever ball game this week – NY Yankees v Seattle Mariners at the Yankee stadium in New York. It was quite an eye opener.


The first thing that struck me was the feeding frenzy that happens at the game. As soon as we got there we tucked into the (included) buffet where no one would have batted an eyelid if you returned again and again. There were piles of sweets you could take with you in little plastic baseball caps and in case you’d troughed them before leaving the building, you could help yourself to the enormous piles of pocorn, sweets and chocolate on the way out. Then at your seat, there were hot and cold running waiters to bring you more food and some who roamed the aisles distributing chocolate.

The really surprising thing about the food is that it was actually pretty damn good. I thought it was all about hot dogs but there was some beautifully cooked lamb and some rather good sushi in addition to the burgers and hotdogs (which I suspect actually had meat in them).

The game itself was surprising. Let’s face it – it is rounders only with overarm throwing. The bit that surprised me was that it is all about the throw. These guys can pitch at over 90mph and throw incredibly accurate. So even if the ball gets hit to the boundary it comes back so fast. With that in mind you’d think that the guys would actually get a move on when running from base to base but actually they sort of amble. And they are kind of chubby. Ok so the pajamas they wear aren’t exactly slimming but still…. If I was paid many millions to play once a week I think I’d make a bit more of an effort and work out in between games.

The fans are different too. British spectators are usually pretty intense – that’s because they are watching the game. A lot of the people at the game this week didn’t seem that bothered. There were a couple of girls in front of us who didn’t stop talking the WHOLE time. I swear they didn’t look round at the players. Even people who seemed to be more interested weren’t that engaged.  I guess they were more intent on stuffing their gaping maws.

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