Category Archives: Travel

Super Ball IX

So as I mentioned in my last post, I attended Super Ball IX last weekend. It was Phish’s ninth festival and held at Watkins Glen International, the famous auto race track in Watkins Glen, NY that last held a music festival in 1973. The most amusing part of the whole thing is that the people from the area seemed worried that this festival would end up like that one, which saw 600,000 people show up to see the Grateful Dead, The Band, and The Allman Brothers play for a single day. There are plenty of in depth reviews of the music. I’ll just write about my experiences and some brief thoughts about the three shows Phish played over the weekend. Continue reading Super Ball IX

Journey to the Holy Land

and by “Holy Land”, I mean Bethel, NY.

This past Memorial Day weekend, I traveled to Bethel, NY to see Phish play three nights at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. Bethel Woods is located on the property that was once part of Max Yasgur’s farm, the piece of property where the Woodstock Music and Art Fair was held in 1969. Visiting Bethel was like a pilgrimage for me, having been quite interested in Woodstock and the 60’s hippie culture since I was about 10 or 11. This post is mainly about my visit to the area, along with some pictures, and what it was like being there, and my thoughts on the venue. I will cover the three Phish shows in another post that will follow. Continue reading Journey to the Holy Land

Woodstock 2011?

OK, not really. But I am going to be spending this Memorial Day weekend at the site of the original 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair. Phish is playing 3 nights at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. It’s on the site of Woodstock. I, personally, am pretty pumped for it. I have been obsessed with Woodstock since I was a kid. I remember one of the first cassette tapes I bought was the Woodstock soundtrack. I think I was 10 or 11 at the time. I plan on visiting the museum there as well. Expect some reports of both the shows and the experience of visiting a place with such rich musical history.

Festival 8: Departure

This is the fifth in a 6 part series on my trip to Indio, CA for Phish’s Festival 8 at the Empire Polo Grounds. I’m only separating them out because it would be one long post to put it all together. They’ll be posted immediately as I finish them. I’ll link to my pictures from the festival in my final post. My other posts about Festival 8 can be found using the fest8 tag.

I woke up around 6:30 am on Monday morning, November 2. We had all woken up around the same time. After a quick shower, I packed up all my stuff. We pulled all our stuff together and packed up the RV. We wanted to be on the road as soon as we could. It didn’t take us long to get the RV packed up again and head out. After a wrong turn, we were on our way back to Las Vegas.

The drive back to Vegas was a lot quicker than the drive to Indio. This was primarily because we didn’t have to stop for supplies, but also because it wasn’t dark and we didn’t have to worry about the California agriculture checkpoint going into the state. I guess Nevada doesn’t care if you bring out of state produce in.

It was pretty amazing driving back. I had never been in the desert and because it was dark, I couldn’t see anything on the drive out other than what I saw from the plane. I’ll just say I’m glad I don’t live in the desert. It’s boring. There aren’t any trees, it’s flat, and it’s dusty. We drive through a huge wind farm shortly after leaving Indio. We also had to drive over a mountain or something. Indio’s elevation is 13 feet below sea level. We drive over a mountain that was about 4,000 feet above sea level. I’ve driven over mountains before, but that was pretty neat. I had never had the elevation rise that much on a drive. In fact, the tallest mountains in the east are under 7,000 feet so you’re never really driving over 4,000 feet.

The only stop we made was in Primm, the first town we hit after crossing the border into Nevada. It’s a pretty lame town with a casino or two and a small amusement park. It looks like a tourist trap and reminded me a bit of South of the Border in South Carolina. I took some pictures and bought a drink to help rehydrate myself after spending a few days in the desert not drinking enough water. We weren’t far from Vegas at that point and just trucked on through.

Upon arrival in Las Vegas, I was dropped off with Matt and Max at a hotel to pick up a cab to the airport. After a short wait, we found a cab and made it to the airport. The trip was just about complete. Max and I were both flying Southwest and grabbed lunch and a recharge of our iPhones together while we waited for our flights. We then said our goodbyes and were on our way.

Shortly after landing in Providence, someone saw my new hat and asked what I thought of the festival. I was surprised to have someone on my flight from Vegas who was there. Nevermind the fact that RI is pretty small, but Vegas is about 5 hours from Indio. I wasn’t expecting anyone to be on my flight who was at the festival. We chatted a bit while we walked to the baggage claim. I found my bag, grabbed a taxi and headed home. The trip was officially over.

Festival 8: Arrival

This is the first in a 6 part series on my trip to Indio, CA for Phish’s Festival 8 at the Empire Polo Grounds. I’m only separating them out because it would be one long post to put it all together. They’ll be posted immediately as I finish them. I’ll link to my pictures from the festival in my final post. My other posts about Festival 8 can be found using the fest8 tag.

My trip to Indio began relatively early in the morning on Thursday, October 29. I woke up at my normal time so that I could catch a plane that left Providence at 10:00 am. My trip was with all people I had met on Twitter, some who I had also met in real life at Phish shows over the summer and for drinks in Providence. I received an offer via Twitter from Mike Sheridan (@TrafficMike) to give me a ride to the airport. I took him up on the offer. I figured the worst that could happen is he’d kill me (luckily, that didn’t happen, nor did I think it would). I arrived at the airport and had two of the most uneventful flights in and out of Philadelphia, known for long delays.

During my layover in Philly, I met up with @PosterDan from Twitter who had been there for many hours as his flight through Denver had been canceled due to Denver getting about 3 feet of snow. We sat in a bar, had lunch and some beer, and chatted a bit about Phish and his crazy travel plans. It came time for us to depart and I went and waited at my gate. My flight was on time and I made it to Vegas.

I was the first of three to arrive at the Vegas airport that afternoon. I grabbed my bags and found a bar and waited for the others. There was a delayed flight and I had to wait a bit longer, so Max (@mberde) and I sat and had a beer together while waiting for Ian (@coffeewithian). When it came time for Ian to show up, we headed down to the baggage claim and each lost a couple dollars in the slots that were right there (they probably have a pretty poor payout anyway). Once we all met up, we grabbed a cab to the Thomas and Mack Center to meet up with the waiting RV and the other four people from our crew (Nick, @Grill_Meister, Steve, @UNOlker, Laura, @MountainLaura, and Matt, @mdubno) and we were on our way. After a few stops along the way to pick up supplies and grab a burger at In-N-Out Burger, we made it to the festival site at 3:00 am. At this point in time, I had been awake for about 23 hours.

When we arrived at the site, security had no clue what they were doing. At the first entrance we tried to enter, we were told the RV lots there were full and we had to go to a back entrance. Nick needed a ticket and asked about the box office. He was assured it’d be open. We followed the directions and entered the back entrance. Upon arrival there, we were told the box office was closed. The guy gave us no indication of what we could do until we suggested he use his walkie-talkie to call over to the other entrance and see if it was open, as we were told that they’d be open 24 hours. He did just that and sent us on our way, through a fairly odd route through the middle of the site. We arrived back at the entrance from which we had been turned away. While the kid there was talking to another driver, we pulled in and made our way to the box office and gates. The “search” of our RV was very quick and we were on our way back to the back entrance and pulled right into our home for the next few days. We met up with some other friends that were there and I ended up staying up until the sun started to rise, probably around 6:00 am. I had now been awake for about 27 hours. I went to sleep for about 2 hours when the sunlight reflecting off the rear view mirror woke me up.

Getting Ready for Festival 8

I’m sitting here prepping some stuff for our as yet to be announced group costume (though if you follow me and the people I’m sharing the RV with, you can probably figure it out). I’ve got a lot going through my head for this weekend. Tomorrow is my last day of work until next Wednesday. I’m leaving Thursday morning for Indio, by way of Philly and Vegas. An awesome guy I follow on Twitter offered me a ride to the airport. I figured since this trip is all about Twitter, I’d take him up on the offer. You may have heard of him, or better yet… heard him. He’s Mike Sheridan of Traffic Net in Rhode Island. Yes, he’s a traffic reporter. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow him @TrafficMike. He’s saving me almost $30 in cab fare by doing this. So be nice to him.

Once I get to Vegas (the Philly stop is just a long layover), I’ll be meeting up with 6 other people I follow on Twitter. They’re all worth following: @UNOlker, @mdubno, @Grill_Meister, @coffeewithian, @mberde, and @MountainLaura. From Vegas we’ll be in the RV and on our way to Indio for the festival. The trip will be pretty epic. Based on what Phish has announced through their site and what I’ve heard through the grapevine, the band has quite a bit planned for us. If you’re interested, check out the following links.

Phish Festival 8 Official Site

Phish Festival 8 Halloween Cover Album Teaser [Jamtopia]

The Phish Festival 8 Poster Gallery [Jamtopia]

The site is supposed to have wifi available. Depending on how good it is or whether or not I can get an AT&T data connection through my iPhone for tethering, I’ll probably post a few updates from the site.

If you’re going to the festival, you should check out the past few episodes of This Week On Lot. They discuss the festival, rumors, and give tips on what to expect and bring with you.

Now back to preparations… like putting music on my iPhone for the flight.

ResNet 2009: The Travel

I’m gonna break up my ResNet posts into a couple different ones about various aspects of the symposium. The first will be the travel as it’s the most recent part of the experience for me.

I traveled from Rhode Island’s TF Green Airport in Warwick to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. We were given the option to fly to the St. Cloud Airport, but it wasn’t really worth the extra cost as I would have had a long layover at MSP. So I opted to take the professional shuttle service that runs from MSP to St. Cloud, Executive Express. It’s an hour and a half long drive, but I figured since it was a professional service, it’d be comfortable and I’d get to see some of Minnesota.

My flight to MSP (direct, on Northwest Airlines) was a pretty good flight. My only complaints were that NWA puts their seats really close together and the seats themselves, though the plane was newer, were extremely uncomfortable. My flight left early and arrived really early. I was lucky. I had hoped this would happen so that I could make the shuttle at 8:00pm instead of 10:00pm. Unfortunately, the luggage took forever to come out and I missed the earlier shuttle by only 3 minutes. I had some time to kill in the airport. I found my way to the shuttle, leaving the secure area, and checked in. I needed food and found the only restaurant nearby that served real meals. It was in the process of closing up, but I managed to get an order in. I had a beer and a sandwich and then headed back to wait. The annoying part of this shuttle area was that it had no wifi. I had a computer, and I was more than willing to pay to get online. It wasn’t gonna happen.

I eventually met a couple locals who were also going to St. Cloud and we were on our way. It was a newer van with very comfortable seats. I was dozing off for most of the drive (after all, 10:00pm CDT is 11:00pm EDT and I wasn’t getting to St. Cloud until almost midnight Central Time). I made it and found my way to my room.

The return trip back to RI was the “fun” one. I had schedule the shuttle to pick me up at 8:15 at the university. We waited where the earlier shuttle was picking us up. Of course, it showed up elsewhere. The driver found us and we boarded. We were then informed that we’d be dropped off at a hotel in town and another van would be bringing us to the airport. The driver seemed to be in his 80’s and drove to the hotel with his turn signal on and wipers on (it wasn’t raining). We arrived at the hotel and he transferred our luggage to a trailer behind another van (it’s important to mention these are older 15 passenger vans). He tells us to wait in the hotel, though the driver is already outside. We just hung around outside. The new driver seemed even older. He had the same issue with the turn signal only we were on the highway. There were a few moments I thought we were gonna die, but luckily, he didn’t kill us.

We arrived at the airport safely and he tells us that airlines other than Delta/NWA get off at the first stop. A bunch of us sat in the shuttle expecting to be dropped off elsewhere in the airport. Instead, the driver moves about 4 car lengths and pulls over. We’re all thinking, “thanks, but we could’ve walked the 30 feet rather than staying on this shuttle”.

The worst part about the Executive Express vans are the stickers on the windows that say “driver tips appreciated”. While I appreciate the service, it wasn’t cheap (and I had a discount) and it wasn’t comfortable (ok, the ride to the campus was, but a full 15 passenger van with people sitting with bags is not comfortable for 1.5 hours).

I enjoyed the wifi in the airport ($7.95 for 24 hours) and had some lunch while waiting for my flight (I had a couple hours to kill). I had upgraded my seat to an exit row (yes, NWA charges $20 to do them a favor and sit in the exit row) so I could have extra leg room. Unfortunately, I ended up next to a fat man who didn’t give a crap that he was invading my personal space. I generally do everything I can so my arms aren’t crossing over into the seat next to me, and I have pretty broad shoulders. This guy just didn’t care. He was gonna sit and relax and make everyone around him uncomfortable. I managed to sleep on and off for much of the flight (after all, I was up at 5:30 to someone saying “goodbye” to me who thought I was leaving at 6 and then again at 6:30 when my alarm went off, all this after a night of drinking until 1:30 and then packing until almost 3:00).

So I made it back. I decided that next time I’m going on a trip somewhere 1.5 hours from the airport, I’m renting a car, even if I have to pay for it myself. I also decided I’m gonna try to avoid NWA from now on (they’re added to my list that also includes US Airways). I do still like the Providence airport. It’s so easy.

Oh, and one last cool thing about my trip. NWA gave me the option of a “mobile” boarding pass. They sent a picture message to my phone that I scanned at security and at the gate. I thought that was pretty cool. It’s one green way to make travel a little easier (less paper is always good, especially if I don’t have to carry it). That and the fried cheese curds were the best part of my travel experience.

Hot’lanta!

Susan and I visited my cousin in the Atlanta area for an extended Memorial Day weekend. It was a ton of fun, but here are some of the highlights and thoughts on some of the urban issues down there.

The first day, we had to pick up my cousin at the airport at 10pm. He gave us his car to use for the day so we spent it in Atlanta (he actually lives about 20 miles north). Our first stop was lunch because we were starving. We went to The Underground and ate at The Irish Bred. The food was tasty and I got a Sweetwater 420 on tap there. It was a great start to a vacation. From there, we wandered around The Underground, which is basically a street underground that was turned into a mall, but it’s mostly independent stores, which is nice. It’s a neat spot, but nothing overly special, especially on a rainy Thursday afternoon when there’s nothing going on.

After leaving The Underground, we headed over to Sweetwater for the tour and tasting, which started at 5:30. Not being from the area, we didn’t know what to expect, but it was nothing like a northeast brewery. They literally don’t do anything until 5:30. So we sat in our car in their parking lot. When we got out, they had setup a tent and tables at the end of their driveway and there was already a line forming. All total, there were probably about 300 people there, mostly for the cheap beer. They charge you $7 for a glass or gave a free plastic cup that was small and you got 6 drink tickets for 6 tastings (2 tickets for a higher gravity beer). They claimed they limit the pours, but they don’t really. I got about 3/4 of a pint each time even though it was supposed to be 5.5 ounces. The tasting part was kind of like a frat party. The tour was cool, though the tour guide was a bit odd. She seemed to be a little beer snobby. It would have been nice if it was a brewer. They had a cool painted tank (pic to follow) for their experimental stuff and they had some barrels with sour and wild beers (pics to follow). It was nice to learn that they bought a large building next door. I’m hoping they’ll expand distribution. They make some great beers. I’d love to see them in New England. My favorites were Happy Ending (a great imperial stout) and their IPA.

We immediately left and headed to Atlanta Brewing Co., the brewers of the Red Brick beers. This was a much smaller group. Similar deal on the tasting, though you only got 4 each (which was fine for us since I was driving). Same deal with the size of the pours, though they were offering half a pint, but I still got almost a full pint. The tour was much smaller and more intimate and a little more informative. They have a lot of room to expand in their space, but they aren’t producing anywhere near as much beer as Sweetwater (they said they’re at 10-15,000 bbl per year while Sweetwater is at 80,000 bbl per year). Their brown ale is awesome. It has a nice roasted flavor with a hint of coffee.

Following the tour, we headed to Green’s Package Store to buy some beer to bring home and then to the Porter Beer Bar for dinner before picking up my cousin. The Porter Beer Bar is a must visit place for beer lovers in Atlanta. The waitstaff was great, the space is very unique (long and narrow, but very comfortable), and the food and beer selection is awesome. I had a Bell’s Third Coast Old Ale (Bell’s had only been available in Georgia for about 2 weeks when we arrived) with my brats and kraut, and Susan had the shrimp and grits.

The next day for lunch, we went to Five Seasons brewpub. It’s a chain, but the beer and food were good. The beer is nothing to seriously seek out, but it’s definitely worth trying if you’re near one. I had their pale ale, which tasted a bit grainy, but was still tasty. My wife had their stout, which was very good. The food was excellent. Their onion rings are the size of small donuts. The thing that surprised me is that they had a menu of aged bottled beers (their own) available. I have never seen that in a brewpub.

We headed to Athens on Saturday for the day. Our first stop was lunch at Trappeze. Everything here was very good. They had a great selection of beer. I got a Bell’s Expedition Stout, which was on the house because I only got 1/2 to 3/4 of a pour as it was the end of the keg. They had an extensive beer menu, which was all craft and looked incredible. Unfortunately, I didn’t want to drink a whole lot so early in the day. Athens is a pretty cool little city. It’s the location of the University of Georgia, which is big, making it a college town. It was very much like New Haven or Burlington. It’s very artsy with a big music scene (after all, REM hails from Athens). After wandering around for a bit, we stopped at the Mellow Mushroom for some beer and let the women check out some clothing stores and try to get my cousin’s kid to take a nap. They had a pretty impressive beer selection for a chain pizza place. I got some good local beers there. Finally, we ended up at the Last Resort for dinner. None of us were overly impressed by it, but it did seem popular. They had a great sweet tea and my trout was really tasty.

While in Athens, we all visited the Terrapin brewery. This was the same deal as the others. You buy a glass and get so many drink tickets. This place gave out 8 drink tickets, but only had 5 beers available. Terrapin makes some awesome beers. Their Rye Pale Ale and India Brown Ale were both awesome. They’re the one brewery I wish I brought back more beers from. The tour was very informative and given by their VP. They are looking to expand and I told him to consider RI. Hopefully, they will.

On Sunday, we went to Summits Wayside Tavern, which boasts the world’s largest selection of beer. How true that is, I have no idea, but they had something like 214 taps and even more beer in bottles (though I imagine some of that beer overlapped). I was not overly impressed other than when I looked at the bar. The wall of taps is pretty intimidating. A lot of the taps were not craft beer, though Susan and I did get some good beer. She had the Old Dominion Bourbon Barrel Stout and I had the Highland Oatmeal Porter (though they got mixed up and I ended up drinking hers and she mine). They were both tasty beers that I can’t get in New England. The restaurant is basically a family restaurant. The service was lackluster and the atmosphere was pretty low brow. I would have preferred a nicer restaurant with smaller beer selection, but it was worth going to once.

We then headed back to RI on Monday. We did eat at the Sam Adams Brewhouse in the Atlanta airport and saw that the Akron airport had a Great Lakes brewhouse in their terminal (didn’t get a chance to see if I could buy beer to bring back with me). All in all, it was a fun trip. We brought back almost a case of beer (Red Brick Brown Ale, Red Brick Double Chocolate Oatmeal Porter, Terrapin 90 Schelling, Terrapin Monk’s Revenge, Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout, New Belgium 1554, New Belgium Fat Tire, and Avery Brabant).

Urban issues: Atlanta was designed for driving. Highways are 6-7 lanes wide in 1 direction. Roads in the city were mostly 2-3 lanes wide. The city is filled with sprawl. It’s a new southern city. There are neat areas (5 Points is a cool neighborhood), but it’s a lot of sprawl. Athens, on the other hand, is a well designed city, though I didn’t notice any public transportation there, but it is walkable.

Best Beer Town in New England…

Portland, ME… at least according to Andy Crouch, author of The Good Beer Guide to New England.  While I have never been to Portland, I won’t disagree with him.  The sheer number of breweries in and around that small city makes it a pretty easy call, but competition in this beer-oriented corner of the country is tough.

Here in New England, several cities vie for the title of Best Beer Drinking City in the region. While listing my top cities, I think its important to do some geographic arithmetic. Of the top cities, the Massachusetts nominees include Boston (including Brookline), Cambridge (including Somerville, i.e. the near North of the River communities), and Northampton and Amherst. Maine offers Portland. New Hampshire offers Portsmouth. Rhode Island offers Providence. Vermont offers Burlington. Connecticut doesn’t really have a competitive offering but I’ll be polite and suggest New Haven.

He gave Burlington, VT second, listing the 3 brewpubs in a 3 block area a main reason.  I’ll take that though.  Burlington is a great city with tons of great beer.  Heck, even the whole state of Vermont is into good beer.  In all the restaurants we visited, I don’t remember seeing much Budweiser, Coors, or Miller.  The same goes for the liquor stores and convenience stores.  However, there was a lot more Labatt’s Blue than I normally see in southern New England (the French-Canadian population there could be the explanation).  Regardless, Vermont tends to be very proud and supportive of Vermont products and smaller more homegrown companies.

Surprisingly, Boston came in third.  The only beer destinations in the Boston area that I have visited are Cambridge Brewing Company (aka CBC) and Sunset Grill.  However, for all the bars in Boston, Andy has it right.  They’re all pretty similar and nothing special when it comes to beer selection.  I do have to get up to the Publick House in Brookline sometime.  Perhaps I can coax my Boston friends to go out to dinner there some night.

Anyway, the article is worth a read.  He makes some great points about all the great New England beer towns.