31 March 2008

Why don't they make 'em like this anymore?

The 1960s. Back when PSAs had attitude.

Move over, Marlboro Man, meet ... Johnny Smoke:

And the granddaddy of all anti-smoking spots:

Somewhere in my video stash is a real goodie from this time frame. Bride and groom - montage of the ceremony, marching out of the church, the thrown rice, and the newlyweds getting into the back of their rented limo. As all this is going on, you hear the preacher: "do you, take this woman, to be your lawfully wedded wife...."

When the voiceover gets to "till death do you part", new hubby pulls out his pack of Luckies, and lights up. The frame stops as he's taking a puff, and the word "death" echoes -- "till DEATH-ath-ath-ath-ath-ath...." -- as the American Cancer Society logo appears on screen. Fade to black.

The late '60s were a golden age for these PSAs, as the FCC mandated so many of them be aired as "equal time" for cigarette commercials. These had teeth, and when the feds finally banned radio and TV ciggy ads (January 2, 1971), the tobacco companies were far happier than upset. Why? Because these PSAs worked and the smoking rate declined; when the cigarette spots were yanked, stations no longer had this mandate ... and these PSAs decreased in exposure, as well.

These spots were way more effective than what passes for anti-smoking PSAs today.

"Think about it."

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Proudly smoke-free since 1965*" Gleck

* = if you don't count 20+ years' worth of second-hand smoke from my mother's "Salem Menthols"
You can take Salem out of the country, but ....
.... you can't take the Salem from my mo-ther!

16 March 2008

The Night the Lights Went Out in (Rincon,) Georgia

As I previously mentioned, Saturday started out pretty. Then by afternoon the wind was beginning to pick up.

And last night ..... man, talk about a crazy night of weather.

Normally, severe weather doesn't tend to be as severe once it reaches the Georgia coast. Tornadoes happen, but nowhere as often as further west.

I'm sure by now you're familiar with the twister that struck downtown Atlanta late Friday, doing damage to the Georgia Dome, Centennial Park and the CNN Center. Well, that same storm system scooted toward the east-southeast, and by Saturday night the storms were beginning to take aim for the Coastal Empire.

After I mowed the gra--I mean, weeds in the backyard, and got showered up, The Gleckfolk went down to Pooler. We had a couple of things to get at Sam's, and also met somebody there for a "Freecycle transaction." I'm now the proud owner of two boxes full of empty CD jewel cases, with insert cards. I flip over the cards and use those as label inserts for my CD/R and DVD recordings. From there, it was across the street to Carey Hilliard's for supper (yes, of Gleckfest '08 fame), and finally to Kroger on the way home for several things.

By then it was 8:00 and very windy ... we're talking 20-30 MPH gusts outside ... and it was a juicy kind of wind which foretold ugly weather in our future. After those Atlanta storms, I had a weird feeling that we were in for some rough sailing later in the evening.

Indeed, we were. On my bedside table, we have a little Midland weather radio, the kind you can program for individual counties, and by 9:00 that thing was beginning the workout of its life! It was going off every 5 minutes. Tornado warnings were piling up for the area west and northwest of us, and they were headed in our direction.

The first storm into Effingham County was a doozy. The radio tripped its alarm, and this one was not a "Doppler indicated tornado"; no, this was a tornado on the ground sighted by a weatherspotter, near Oliver and headed toward Springfield and, possibly, Rincon.

It didn't hit Rincon proper, but skirted us to the northeast. It was a confirmed tornado and just as it was mere miles from us, the streetlight near our yard was beginning to sway back and forth, and our lights were beginning to flicker. I saw the radar image on our NBC affiliate -- amazingly enough, they actually INTERRUPTED PROGRAMMING (something our TV stations hardly ever do) and the radar was tracking the storm just around us. We picked up some high-ish winds, and that was about it. Not a drop of rain.

Then the lights went out. This would've been about 10:15 p.m.

That's when the twister knocked over a couple of high-voltage transmission towers, and then zeroed in on Georgia Power's Plant McIntosh, which generates all the electricity for the Savannah metro area. Depending on which report is to be true, either half or the entire plant was taken out by this twister. All of Chatham and Effingham counties, plus much of Bryan and Liberty counties were plunged into darkness. Oh yeah, and all of Savannah ... with its St. Patrick's Day festivities in full-tilt on River Street ("I got river-faced on Shit Street!").

That power plant, by the way, is a mere four miles from our house! Oy!!

The second storm -- also prompting a tornado warning for Effingham -- came about 30 minutes later. This one passed over us. Into the hallway we went, Seraphim, Puddy (on her leash), myself, sofa cushions, bottle of water, Grundig wind-up radio (which we got two years ago for our GPB pledge!), and Sera's pocket TV. Luckily, the Midland wx radio had batteries in it as backup, so as long as those held in, we heard all the weather warnings.

We watched WSAV on the mini-telly while they were giving another weather break-in, and their radar image had purple (the worst level) right over Rincon, and we were hearing hail on the roof. The wind was really going out there, and for about five minutes it looked as if a twister might be imminent.

Well, by 11:15 or so, things in our vicinity were beginning to improve. The storm that'd terrorized us was now aimed for Savannah and all of the electrically-challenged St. Patty's Day party-goers.

Fortunately for them, it stayed north of the river and didn't do much damage as it went into the Atlantic.

Meanwhile, we got ready for bed and called it a night. Pretty easy to do without any electricity. The news reports we saw told us that Georgia Power estimated some 150,000 people in the dark, but no way to tell when we'd all have power back. However long it takes to tap into backup sources of electricity, I suppose.

The lights returned to our fair abode at about 9:30 this morning. Outside, you couldn't tell there was any bad weather at all! The cars were fine (the hailstones weren't big enough to cause damage, thank goodness), and all was good.

Up Fort Howard Road toward Ebenezer, though, it was a different story. Just three miles from us, a couple of trailers were destroyed by a twister. Three miles. Geez.

Sorta reinforces the mantra "There but for the grace of God go I", doesn't it?

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Armchair weather geek" Gleck

You Mow Better Electrically

What a weekend it's been! Friday night, we made a pilgrimage to Lowe's, where we proceeded to spend entire GDP for a small African nation .... I needed a new lawn mower, and Seraphim needed a buttload of things for her latest attempt at gardening.

The screaming noise you've heard all weekend from east Georgia are all the "Bonnie" plants we bought for her garden. Seraphim, love her as I do .... well, let's just say that I'm glad she doesn't treat Puddy or myself like she does plants. I swear, that woman has killed more leafy and flowery vegetation than DDT. (love you, sweetie!)

Amazing enough, bags upon bags of red mulch, plant food (not even Scott's or Miracle-Gro can save a plant from ..... [cue dramatic music sting here] SERAPHIM ......), plus a lawn mower, a new cordless edger/trimmer .... plants, borders, landscape matting, concrete patio blocks .... holy crap, all of that stuff fit into the back of Rupert The Wonderbuggy, a/k/a "The Rupert King Family SUV-ster."

I shouldn't be surprised. Two weeks ago, five of us were able to cram into Rupert for our various tourist romps around Savannah. If it can handle all of the Gleckfesters, then I'm sure a bunch of landscaping and various flora and fauna would be a piece of cake.

Talk about "Built Ford Tough." I apologize for all the Ford-bashing I did for years. I take it all back. (Rupert has nearly 15,000 miles to his name ..... I can only hope and pray The Rupe' continues to be a reliable ride. But I do feel optimistic about it.)

This marked a grand experiment, too -- I replaced an old gas lawn mower with an electric. I saw it earlier this week at Lowe's, and thought it might be worth looking into. No gasoline, no maintenance, no bending over to pull-start. Just a long-ass extension cord. I asked the guy at Lowe's about what I was afraid of -- accidentally mowing over the cord. He said it happened far less than one thinks. Well, I Google'd reviews and comments posted about electric mowers, and found all of them to be positive. Hmmmmm. (the only negatives I noticed were for the cordless electrics, mainly centering around the heat outside; supposedly taking its toll on the batteries).

Friday night, I bought one. Oh yeah, and a 12-gauge 100-foot extension cord to go with it.

Well, Saturday started off with beautiful weather outside. Perfect outdoor conditions for Seraphim to start her patio garden. At the same time, I put together and then fired up the new mower. The backyard - as always this time of year - was becoming a comical jungle of at least two dozen varieties of weeds. The front yard looks good, but the back is another story. Fortunately, nobody can really see it -- two neighbors have privacy fences, and the other two have wetlands between their yards and ours. Still, I gotta do something about the weeds someday.

Whooookay, I unraveled the extension cord, plugged it into the side of the house, and then connected it to the mower's plug stump. I didn't have to lean down to start it, either; it's on the handle ... I pulled it toward me and she started. The mower is rather quiet, too. I'd say about half the loudness of an average gas-powered mower. And better for the environment, too (if also better for Georgia Power's pockets!). I might be able to use an MP3 player while mowing, and actually hear it.

As for the cord, well that's the one big PITA. Having to move it around and keep it from going underfoot (or is that undermower?). But it's not THAT bad ... it's like running a vacuum cleaner out in the yard. The good thing is, I no longer have the PITAs of hitting the choke button and trying multiple times to pull-start the mower, making sure there's enough gas in it to do the entire yard .... and running out of said petrol in the middle of a job (which always happens - you guessed it - when it's 20 minutes from sunset, you're on a roll, and there's no gas left in the can).

How will it work in the long term? Only time and Reddy Kilowatt will tell.

I forgot something, though. Earplugs. Those Bonnies are shrieking their leaves off in terror.

That might explain why I hear funny noises every time I pass the Bonnie Plant Farm in Union Springs, Alabama. They know who I am, and know who I'm married to.

(I still love you, sweetie)

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "(Really, I do.)" Gleck

13 March 2008

Scott Adams pushes the envelope....

I've been a fan of the Dilbert comic strip since I first saw it in the early '90s. Yes, Scott Adams' drawing style is crude, but it reminds me of the Jay Ward school of animation (Bullwinkle) ... terrible, very basic and cheesy, but you forgive it because the writing is so damned brilliant.

You just have to see the current storyline. Adams is a very brave man:


Select "Dilbert", then go back and start with the strip dated March 8th.

I damn near wet my pants when I saw what happened to Wally.

(Oh, and in other comic news - today it appears Elizabeth and Anthony have finally become engaged)

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "I'm not weird, I'm just drawn that way" Gleck

Even more sweepstakes hooey!

This evening (or, rather, last night - seeing as how it's past 1 in the morning and all), another sweepstakes mailing was in our mailbox. Only this one was for Publishers Clearing House.

It was from Dave Sayer, Executive Director of the PCH Prize Patrol.

More of the same. Except, this mailing had a distinct Prize Patrol motif about it. No doubt, to get the stupidperson™ all aglow and goosebump'ed, just thinking their next visit was gonna be from a couple of people bearing balloons, champagne and a big-ass check.

"The Prize Patrol is definitely coming to your TV area with a major prize on May 14!"


I mean, in this mailing was even the location where they would get the flowers. Yeah, boy. A dozen roses would come from Navy Exchange Charleston Flower Shop, Naval Weapons Station in Goose Creek, South Carolina. Zip 29445, in case you give a pride of floating damns.

Why couldn't they just stop by the Kroger on the way into Rincon?? It's on the right side of 21, and convenient to get into and out of. And I'm sure their roses are cheaper. Certainly Mr. Dave Sayer - any relation to Leo? - has a Kroger Plus Shoppers' Card. Wouldn't he?

I hope so. Because all this typing is making me feel like dancing. Like dancing, woo, dancing, woo, dance the night away.

What else? They even indicate the media to be contacted: WSAV, WJCL and WTOC. (Funny, the PBS station isn't listed. They could tag along and then encourage us to increase our pledge to GPB ... well, you know, since we'll be "rich" and all ....)

I couldn't resist the temptation of entering yet again. And no, I didn't buy a golldurned thing. Especially since there weren't any magazine subscriptions (so much for "PUBLISHERS" in the name) ... just a bunch of cheap, flimsy items. Not Ready For As Seen On TV®.

Take this Bell & Howell radio, for instance. Please.

Never mind, I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy.

It looks big, at least from this flyer. But this thing can't be much bigger than your garden-variety iPod.

And it can be mine, iiiiiif the price is right. They're asking four payments of $2.99. Four payments per what? Month? Week? Day? HOUR??

12 bucks for a "shortwave" radio with carry case and ear buds.

Boy howdy.

Here's what you can listen to with this plastic insult to Marconi's good name:
Now, what's wrong with that picture?

I mean, besides the fact that it tunes just the VHF-Low band (channels 2-6). If you want to hear something on channels 7-13, you're schitt-outta-luck. Besides, all of that bandwidth will be useless in less than a year anyway.

Or that "Telescopic Antenna" is listed as if it's a radio band. "Yeah, there was a lot of really cool skip on the T&A band this morning .... holy tropo, I pulled in a polka station out of Antarctica. Gotta love the sunspot cycles on Mars."

Did you catch it yet? It tunes AM/FM (and neither very well, I'm sure), but also .... hold on to your mousepad, 'cuz I'm fixin' to have a goosebump orgasm here .... it tunes THE MW BAND.

For one thing, THAT'S THE FREAKIN' AM BAND. That's what Medium Wave IS.

Second, it lists the frequency range as 525-1600 kHz. Problem: AM now goes to 1700 kHz, since the "expanded band" opened up in the early '90s.

Not worth just one $2.99 payment. Bell & Howell was a name in optics and projection equipment, NOT radios.

Okay, Prize Patrol -- come on over, Mr. Sayer. I've got some long tall glasses, my wife is a killer cook and I know you can dance, I know you can dance, YOU CAN DANCE!

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "You can keep the champagne; I don't drink" Gleck

09 March 2008

How many "sweepstakes" does it take to get to the center of a sucker?

Just over two months ago, I entered the latest "Publishers Clearing House" sweepstakes. I didn't buy anything, but that's neither here nor there.

I also didn't expect to win one thin dime. Nor one tarnished penny, either. I know there's a better chance that George W. Bush will grow a functioning cerebrum ... Hillary Clinton will grow a functioning heart ... gas prices will go back to beginning with a "1" ... or that we'd get a freeway connector from Rincon into Savannah ... but anyway ...

The other day I received in the mail an "official"-looking envelope. The return address read: SWEEPSTAKES CLEARINGHOUSE DEPARTMENT OF NOTIFICATIONS

To the right of the address window read: "OFFICIAL NOTIFICATION - PLEASE REPLY IN 10 DAYS."

In the words of Jack Benny, "Well."

Did I win? Did I win??

Holy shitzu on a swiszle, I tore into the contents faster than Puddy into an unattended garbage bag, and had a gander at said envelope's payload.

The cover letter -- "Official Prize Award Directive" -- indicated that I, Talmadge Q. Gleck, "have been awarded a consolation prize in the TEN MILLION DOLLAR SWEEPSTAKES CLEARINGHOUSE GIVEAWAY."

That's funny, I distinctly remember entering the Publishers Clearing House contest, but not the one for Sweepstakes Clearinghouse.

How in cotton-pickin' tarnation can somebody win a contest they did not enter??!!

What seems to have happened is that PCH has "sold", "rented" or otherwise "donated" my name to this outfit, which then goes into action notifying people like us that we've "won." There's no other plausible explanation; I haven't gotten these things in a long time. And I hadn't entered PCH (or any other sweepstakes) in a long time, either. The timing here is a little too suspect.

In any case, the enclosed letter -- oops, "Directive" -- went on to tell me the prizes I have "won." (I'll explain in a moment) And the 'Directive' ended by stating, "Prizes like this have the power to change people's lives."

Great McMahon on a can of Alpo, it sure as heck changed MINE.

Included with this letter were several "checks", six in all -- and, true to form, one showed up in the address window, with "PAY TO THE ORDER OF" clearly laid out in order to be visible within the window.

"Oooooh, a check!" *squeal*

Of course, what doesn't show up are the words to the right of all six of these "pseudo financial instruments": NON-NEGOTIABLE. NOT A CHECK.

They're all $400.00 vouchers, good toward purchase of six corresponding items in the mailing.

They are, as follows:
  1. RCA Home Stereo System with Surround Sound. $579.95 value.

  2. Dell® Desktop Computer with software and FREE internet. $699.95 value.

  3. "Masterpiece®" Matching Diamond Watch Set. $469.95 value.

  4. Dell® Laptop Computer with software and FREE internet. $779.95 value.

  5. Ultralite® 5-piece Expandable Luggage Collection. $479.95 value.

  6. DVC™ Megapixel Digital Camcorder Package. $549.95 value.
Good Mother Mary on a Marx Big Wheel, Seraphim and I were fixin' to be showered with some mighty quality merchandisin'. I felt like a contestant on Press Your Luck.

Only The Whammy was real.

Each of these items were represented with the aforementioned "vouchers" which took $400.00 off each of the list prices shown above.

Let's do the math:
  • RCA stereo system (curiously, the only brand name listed here without one of the ubiquitous trademark symbols) ... after the $400 voucher, it's being offered to me for $179.95.

  • Dell desktop computer .... after-voucher price: $299.95.

  • "Masterpiece" watch set ... after-voucher price: $69.95.

  • Dell laptop computer ... after-voucher price: $379.95.

  • Ultralite luggage set ... after-voucher price: $79.95.

  • DVC digital camcorder ... after-voucher price: $149.95.
Now let us review the above pricing. First, the RCA stereo:

This thing is little more than a "mini-bookshelf" system inside a fake-wood-veneer cabinet. I've seen these cheesy stereos selling for as little as 100 bucks, and the cabinet selling for $50. Go to Big Lots, and you'll probably find both.

First, it plays cassettes. What the hell are these "cassettes"? Oh yeah, almost forgot ... they're about the size of iPods, but they're also known for puking brown silly-string when they get sick. No, thanks.

The speakers (yeah, they look big, but I'll betcha inside each one is a single cone no bigger than three inches diameter!) promise "full concert hall sound, producing music the way it was meant to be heard."

If that's how music is supposed to be heard, then go ahead and drive rusty nails into my ear canals, I wanna be deaf.

That RCA system is a descendant of the 1980s "Yorx" stereo systems. You know the ones, they had molded plastic on the front to make it appear like it's a stacked, matched component system. 20 slide controls gave the illusion of a 20-band equalizer. Guess again -- five of the slides are connected ... one for volume, another for balance, then bass and treble. Sucker.

And RCA? I mean, come on -- it's a long way from their days pioneering radio and color television. It's no longer a standalone company; today RCA electronics are made by Thomson, and their products don't exactly rate too well in Consumer Reports. Something pesky, like "high repair rate."

Next is the Masterpiece watch set. His 'n' hers with "gold, diamonds and onyx." Oh, my. The fine print says "one-point diamonds." Are we supposed to mistake that for "one-KARAT"? Now I'm no diamond expert, nor am I that much of a watch-geek, but even I know something's not quite right here.

And "made of genuine Swiss parts"??!! That's an insult to some of the world's finest people! I wonder just what the good folk of Helvetia, WV would have to say about this.

I believe I'll pass. Wal-Mart has better deals on watches by reputed names like Timex, which cost far less than the 70-buck price tag above. And they actually work.

Then we had the "Ultralite® 5-piece Expandable Luggage Collection." Expandable? Well, DUHHH!! EVERY luggage set is "expandable" -- you just buy more suitcases, genius!

And the way it looked in the flyer ... no fancier than the luggage set we bought in 2001 at Office Depot (of all places!) for, I believe, right at - if not less than - the stated net price of $79.95. What's more, our set is still going strong. I somehow doubt this "Masterpiece" set would've gone that distance. (that's a joke, son)

"Masterpiece" is an underrated 1973 Temptations hit song. Not a name I think of when I'm entertaining a luggage investment.

More electronics? You betcha. Here's something sure to swoon the heart of every videophile from Tiger Ridge to Tuscumbia: The DVC™ Megapixel Digital Camcorder Package. Click on the image for a bigger view .... this baby contains the astonishing amount of 32 MEGABYTES of built-in memory. Enough for 320 still images.

Ummmm, that does not compute. Inside our 8.3 megapixel Fuji camera is a 2-gig SD card. Big enough to hold just over 500 full-tilt pictures. I'd say 32 MEGAbytes (that's soooo 1999!) will hold maybe eight (8) pictures at 12 MP resolution. Ahhh, but the small print reads "max resolution." Hmmmmm...

Something else that does not compute, either: the brand name. I've heard of JVC, of course. But what in sam-hill is this DVC™ -- Diablo Valley College? Disney Vacation Club?

Yes, there seems to be a company called DVC™. "Imaging solutions for science and industry." It appears to be a manufacturer of digital cameras for medical and other professional applications. No wonder I'd never heard of it until I Google'd the name.

But what about this "DVC" camcorder? Is it a top-of-the-line "boutique" subsidiary of Coby? Or Broksonic? Names you see all over places like Fred's and Dollar General, places that make Wal-Mart look like a high-end stereo salon.

At the price of $150 after the voucher, I'd pass. It claims to be advertised in Popular Photography magazine. I can't vouch for that one, though.

Vouch. Heh heh ... um ... heh?

Do yourself a favor, and pick up an entry-level brand-name camcorder at Best Buy, which usually start at around $250. Another $100 spent, and you save a lot of heartache and lost video.

And the "$400 in software" I don't even want to think about. Most of 'em look like freeware programs, outdated, unsupported versions of established applications, or, worse, "teaseware."

Then there are the computers. Dude, you're gettin' a démodé Dell.....

$300 for a desktop, and $380 for the laptop. A "hither-and-yon" computing package for less than 700 bucks out-of-pocket.

Sounds too good to be true, right?

Well, it is.

These ARE computers. One's a desktop and the other a laptop. ("One of these things is not like the other" / "C is for computer, that's good enough for me")

But, just for grins, let's examine the small-print.

For one thing, these are "open stock." Meaning, people have returned 'em. Ahhhhh, but also there's potential lurking in those hard drives .... passwords ... online banking logins .... illicit e-mails the wife sends to her online boyfriend who fathered her chil ..... um, er, anyway ... these are returns. Not new items. But think of the financial/blackmail bonanza that awaits the lucky recepient. [provided the recepient actually gets to BE the recepient.....]

Now, if all that doesn't faze you, consider the specifications:

1.6 GHz Pentium-4. If that's not enough retro for you, then you'll just thrill to the 3.5" disk drive (holds an amazing 1.44 MB of data), and -- get ready to have an orgasmic thrill -- A 20 GIGABYTE HARD DRIVE.

Good gravy, the computer we bought in 2000 -- eight years ago, for those counting -- had a 30-gig hard drive on it.

But the speakers. FULL STEREO SOUND. Folks, I'm drooling ... I'm getting rather fatigued with the "mono reprocessed to simulate stereo" output from this 14-month-old HP Pavilion desktop.

And with 256 MB of RAM, you'll be stuttering your way through at least two multitasked processes.

Oooooh, then there's also the free internet. Free. Internet. Yeppers, 1,000 hours/45 days of free AOL. Sheyettfahr, I didn't know AOL still offered dialup service for new customers. Good night, and pleasant dreams; that 2 MB picture might be all downloaded when you wake up in the morning.

All right, already, here's something positive: it has Windows XP. That beats the fool durn out of Vista (one BIG reason I replaced our desktop a year ago December was the impending release of Vista -- I wanted XP Media Center 2005 while I could still get it. XP MC05 is a surprisingly stable OS for a Micro$oft product).

Now, here's the boilerplate for the laptop:
The Toshiba laptop that we got for Seraphim back in August '06 has a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor. This thing has a PENTIUM-3 ... I think they were selling those when I was still living in Troy. And check out the hard drive size on this thing: TEN WHOPPING GIGABYTES. (our laptop has a 120 GB hard drive on it .... and, for that matter, our HP desktop has a 250-gig HD onboard).

Both of these things have "CD-ROM included", but nothing is said about a burner. This isn't 1998, people; a CD burner - at the very least - is crucial to a computer system in 2008.

You'd be way better off taking your chances with Blue Hippo. A scary thought in and of itself.

Wholly Mozzes, the levels some people will stoop. It's a fishing expedition, and the sobering reality is that there are enough "stupid people" who fall for these things to more than pay the freight of sending all these mailings.

One clue to look for, in the event a "stupidperson" happens upon this blog: the postage. It was metered "pre-sorted standard" at a postage rate of 18.5 cents. Contest winners are never notified via pre-sorted mail, people. Get a clue. Buy two vowels, and then guess C and L.

This outfit has a website, too. Take a look at some of the "winners." Yeeeeeeesh.

I said it recently, and it bears mentioning again: the movie Idiocracy is getting dangerously close to life imitating art.

For some reason, I have a craving for some Carl's, Jr. EXTRA BIG-ASS FRIES!!!!!!

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "The sucker stops here" Gleck

05 March 2008

Gleck Fest #1

I suppose I ought to chime in with a review of the chaos and disorder we had under our roof this past weekend.

Postponed from an earlier, colder, rainy and sicker time, Gleck Fest™ occurred as planned. We met Kate/Susan & The General on our way in from work. They were at Baibry's, a local coffee shop type place in a nice mock-storefront center with terrible parking. The coffee, as both K/S and Sera will tell you, makes the anemic vehicular logistics well worth it.

Dinner was at what I've long called The Only Non-Fast Food Restaurant In Rincon, Georgia In Business For Longer Than Six Months. More commonly known as "Frank & Linda's." It was a most pleasant icebreaker. I was 99% sure we'd all get along fine .... and, to both of our fortune, it was somewhere in the 110-120% range.

Both have already made mention of the Police Report section in our little weekly freebie paper, The Spirit. It's not much to look at, basically your right-wing glorified pennysaver, but the police blotter makes the whole paper. And yes, they're all real. The Spirit has a website, complete with police reports, but the last issue was January 24th, and whatever hosting service they're using prefers ASCII punctuation, so the regular kind causes little "?" icons to appear. Overall, it's a sloppy site. But anyway.........

Saturday was all about the touristy thing, as our cohorts have already made known. Old Savannah Tours (the white trolleys) have a neat on/off type thing to allow for shopping or meals along the way. Seraphim and I decided on Sixpence Pub on Bull Street. Amazingly enough, there was not a fish & chips plate on the menu (admittedly, I had my hopes set on it). I was fixin' to settle on a turkey sandwich, but The General -- as a picky eater, I've finally met someone I can see meat-to-potatoes with -- ordered the bacon cheeseburger. I didn't see that puppy on the menu, so I changed my order. (folks, there's nothing more ENGLISH than a good BCB)

Filled with "British" vittles, and after a photo-op out front of the genuine English phone booth out front (As Seen On Kate/Susan's Blog), we stepped back onto the next trolley. Next stop: The Juliette Gordon Low house. I'd never taken the tour, so I figured there's a first time for everything. Interesting place, to be sure, but I'm more into recent (i.e. postwar) history. What I really wanted to do is disregard the tour guide's orders and take a hearty slide down that beautifully polished banister. Heh. What stopped me? Easy. I'm a 43 year old with gout issues and nowhere near as limber as I was back when Bolivar and I were torturing the Whoopi Goldberg lookalike waitress at Larry's Restaurant in Jonesboro.

Seraphim, Kate/Susan and The General went inside some chocolate place on Broughton Street. I stayed out, of course, and walked a couple places down to the Subway on the corner so I could perform some Necessary Business. As we used to call it, "Mambo #1." I thought, since they were kind enough to have their facilities available, I would then procure a soft drink. All that Girl Scoutin' made me thirsty. I drew myself a Barq's Root Beer®, but found it to be flatter than -- you guessed it -- Poinsett County, Arkansas. I went back in there for a Coca-Cola®, but its carbonation level was akin to Poinsett's neighbor to the east, Mississippi County. They graciously gave me a refund on the drink.

By the time all that was finished, The Chocoholics had emerged. We walked around the corner toward City Market to hail another trolley. Upon reaching our original stop at the Visitor Center, we piled into The Rupert King Family SUV-ster like a bunch of Mexicans en route to the Vidalia onion fields, and made a beeline for Johnny Harris.

Up 'till now, Nettiemac sat up front, while Seraphim made a nest for herself in the very back of the SUV -- a nice flashback to our childhoods when we'd ride unrestrained in the very back of a station wagon or pickup. But The Good Nett' insisted on doing the backseat.

We got to Johnny Harris just before they opened for supper at 5:30 (true enough, it's not so much the food - a bit pricey, if you wanna know the truth - but it's above and over all else the atmosphere!). And then it all caught up with Nettie. We were all concerned and especially disappointed for her -- why HERE of all places? This is her favorite spot while in Savannah.

On the way back home we made a slight detour for some cheaper-than-usual Kroger Petrol on Ogeechee Road (we had a 15-cents per gallon discount to redeem) , then to Chick-Fil-A -- I was jonesin' for a milkshake, and Kate/Susan wanted to try one as well. Once home, we sat up talking and comparing old school yearbook pictures. Man, it sure is a long way from 1983, Lakeside High School, bad middle-part disco hair and .... well, just hair in general.

Sunday: lunch at Zaxby's, a chicken finger place that started just up the road from here in Statesboro. I've always loved Zaxby's, and now The General has become a fan for life.

"The Gleck Family Sunday Matinee" on Channel 57 featured Kingpin, followed by The Wonderful World of Carey Hilliard's. From there, it seemed, our Virginia guests had to start back northward. The meal was good, and our server took a very nice table shot of all of us.

We said goodbye to K/S&G, and they took off into the I-95 darkness. And then there were three. Nettiemac stayed another night, and we had a good time filled - as always - with conversation and stories. Nettie left just ahead of us Monday morning.

The house was awfully quiet Monday night, that's for sure! And Puddy -- who got more attention than the law allows -- was a bit lonely. She was a hit with our guests, and more than once I wondered if Puddy was going to shun us and go back to Virginia with Kate/Susan.

This was one of the most enjoyable weekends I've ever had. And to think Talmadge Gleck didn't scare 'em back onto the interstate.

Now we want to make a trip to Fredericksburg. Maybe later this year.

Thanks for coming down. It was a pleasure to finally meet you two.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Party Animal" Gleck

04 March 2008

WV-08 DAY 6: Comin' home

Tal & Sera's Excellent West Virginia Adventure

DAY SIX - Wednesday, 20 February.
Destination: Back home in Effingham County, Georgia.

"For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."
--Isaac Newton's Third Law

Just before the start of a vacation trip, there's an initial feeling in the morning, a massive euphoria washing over one as they realize: "Today we start our vacation!" All the excitement, all the anticipation, the preparation and planning build up to the elation of waking up on departure morning.

Well, for each morning like that comes waking up on the other departure day, the one when vacation is over and the long drive home awaits us. Typically it's a feeling of malaise, the beginning of what could be called a post partum of sorts. After the excitement and anticipation of vacation time, then quicker than we wish, it's all over. Back on your heads.

One thing that made it hard was leaving 25 degree weather with two inches of snow on the ground (and falling heavily). We left the cabin at about 10:00, taking US-19 to Beckley, then the turnpike (I-77) south out of WV and into Virginia, then North Carolina. I-77 ends in Columbia, S.C., but this time we'd be taking a small detour in order to rack up more counties in South Carolina. More on that below.

It was snowing like all get-out along US-19, although it began to taper off south of Beckley. It was cool seeing the ski slopes at Flat Top all nice and white, with the ski lifts operating at full capacity.

The white stuff disappeared quickly after we left West Virginia. Snow gave way to wind, big time wind when we got to Wytheville (a big watering hole at the point where Interstates 77 and 81 intersect). I stopped at the first exit to get gas at a Kangaroo station, where it was selling for $2.93/9. Here the wind was stiff; we're talking gusts of up to 35-40 MPH. Almost blew the cap clear off my head and back into West Virginia!

I redeemed our $2.00 Virginia scratch-off ticket, and bought us another one. Busted. Damn.

It was about lunchtime and we were getting hungry. A detour off the interstate into Wytheville was made in order to find us some lunch.

Our options, as you probably guessed, were limited mostly to the usual fast-food suspects. We chose Wendy's, where they just so happened to have wi-fi access. Now offering wireless internet in places like Wendy's, Mickey D's or (as nearly all of 'em do now) Krystal strikes me as risky. Not for the access itself, but in trying to eat and navigate your laptop at the same time. Generally, the food (especially Krystal) is greasier than a gas station's garage. Do you want all of that smudge on your notebook??!!

Well, somehow we managed to check our e-mail without the laptop looking like it lost a fight with Fonzie's hair.

As we ate, I saw the price sign of the Go-Mart across the street increase from $2.89/9 to $2.95/9. Well, crap. Good thing I already filled up.

All out of eye candy...

Filled with Dave Thomas' culinary legacy, we reentered Interstate 77 for the last portion of Appalachia. The eastern edge of the mountains cross from North Carolina into Virginia right at the spot I-77 does. We're talking serious downhill grades, complete with "runaway ramps" for those truckers who haven't yet mastered the art of mountain driving. This is one of my favorite parts of interstate (especially driving northward!!), as the panoramic view toward the southeast is indescribable.

And literally at the North Carolina state line, you're out of the mountains and into a more 'rolling hills' kind of terrain.

I-77 through N.C. is about as exciting as Ben Stein giving a lecture on the history of dust bunnies. But we took a small detour to avoid the muck of Charlotte ... we meandered our way to I-85 at Gastonia, where we visited a convenience store to redeem those N.C. scratch-offs. Busted! Lady luck had left the building.

Meanwhile, there were a couple of guys trying to bum money off of people (an increasingly common sight at gas stations these days) ... this guy asked us, "Can you help me get to Charlotte?" I resisted the temptation of saying: A) "Yeah, I-85 north, the onramp is to your left ... you'll be there in no time.", B) "Sure, see the luggage rack up there? Climb up and hold on!!" or C) "You've spent all your paycheck on lotto tickets, beer or cigarettes (or all three), and you're taking me for a sucker."

Nothing Could Be Finer, part 2

South Carolina was our next state. Cherokee County was last visited in 1987, but now I've traveled it with my wife. At Gaffney we got off the interstate to head southward on S.C. 150, just in time for a good episode of "Jack Benny" on Sirius 118 Radio Classics. We entered the extreme southeastern portion of Spartanburg County (another one last seen 21 years ago) before adding Union County to the S.C. county tote board.

With Union conquered, that leaves us with just one county out of 46 we've yet to visit, either on our own or together: Saluda. Originally we were going to take that one in (going due south toward Georgia on US-321 instead of the slightly-longer-but-quicker I-26/I-95 route), but we were both ready to get home. Let's save Saluda for another time .... heeeey, a nice excuse for a future visit to the upstate (we are way overdue for a weekend in Nettie-land, after all).

Another reason for a weekend up that way was the giant Disney outlet store we saw near Union, S.C.; Seraphim was beginning to drool.

Suppertime found us in the environs of Columbia. And we all know what that means: mustard barbecue. Instead of the original "Piggy Park" location of Maurice's, we tried the one near I-26 in the bedroom town of Irmo. This one, alas, wasn't as good ... the 'cue had very little sauce on it (yeah, I KNOW you can add it from the bottle on the table, but it's much better when it's prepared with the sauce already mixed in). Plus, the bun was overtoasted.

Eh, you can't win 'em all. There's always next time (and a lesson therein: Piggy Park never fails to please!)

Anglo-Afro-Cajun-American??? Or: "Graveyard convenience store" is as high as you're gonna get on your career ladder.

Gas in the upstate was in the low $2.80s, but was creeping up as we got closer to Columbia. And, from a Savannah perspective, gas in Cola-town is dirt-cheap! I thought we'd better go ahead and fill up before we entered Colonial/Enmark monopoly territory.

The prices were fluctuating between $2.89 and $3.09 in the Columbia area, but we found an exit with good prices near Orangeburg along I-26. On the left was a Pilot station with $2.95/9 ... and on the right was a "Cricket" store advertising $2.91/9 gas. Okay, Cricket it is.

Or maybe not. Two other people at the pumps were complaining of slow dispensing. Plus, the card swiper at the pump didn't work. Welllll, crap. I went inside to see what was going on, and I was greeted by a form of humanity I won't soon forget (much as I wish I could).

This woman was a walking PSA against the dangers of inbreeding. Actually, I think she was the love child of a manage-a-trois between a black man, a white woman and a Cajun of unspecified gender. I swear to gawd, she talked in a south Louisiana dialect of ebonics. I didn't see the inside of her mouth, but I suspect she was more than a few teeth down.

Her response to me was something like, "Card thing be not working, we be outta gas. You be have to try da Pilot over dere baby."

Ever see the Mike Judge movie Idiocracy? Sometimes I wonder if we aren't already there......

Holy crap on a swiszle stick. Over to Pilot we went. At least the gas started with a 2, so it could've been worse. Seraphim -- surprise, surprise -- made herself a "Trucker's Coffee" and I drew myself a "Fountain Dew."

And that, my friends, was our last stop on Our Excellent West Virginia Adventure. The rest of the trip ... I-26 to I-95 and back into Georgia ... was same-ol'-same-ol'. We arrived back home (to the sight of $3.14/9 gasoline) at about 9:30.

Crunchin' dem numbers......

CHEAPEST GAS: $2.70/9 in Fort Calhoun, S.C.
HIGHEST GAS SEEN: $3.29/9 at the Exxon stations along the WV Turnpike Wednesday.
HIGHEST GAS PAID: $3.09/9 in Summersville, WV (later that day it went up to $3.19/9)

It was a fun trip. Too fun and too short, as usual.

But plenty of memories created to live on until our next trip to God's Country......

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Mountaineer at heart" Gleck

WV-08 DAY 5: Just (literally) chillin'

Tal & Sera's Excellent West Virginia Adventure

DAY FIVE - Tuesday, 19 February.
Agenda: Originally to be a day around the cabin, not going anywhere.

Our last full day in West Virginia was to be spent "just hanging out" around our little cabin. But, just like last year, there was no such creature. It was snowing outside, and there was roughly an inch or so on the ground. The idea of driving around in the snow proved too tempting for a couple of semi-tropical folk. Plus, after last night's Goodwill diversion, we thought we'd try the Salvation Army store we saw downtown while "wardriving" for a wi-fi signal.

We had a taste for pizza for lunch, so we thought we'd give the Summersville Pizza Hut buffet a try. But first, we went to The Big Red Shield for a look through their thrifty stashes. Unfortunately, it left much to be desired. Very little to speak of, although we did find a small piece for an old glassware set that I had from Gran Lera. No real finds, book or vinyl, here. Buh-bye, Salvos.

Mama mia, that's a spicy homo...

Next stop: Pizza Hut. The only experience I'd had with one of their lunchtime buffets was the one in Troy, Ala. There, it was an overpriced spread with mostly "esoteric" topping combinations .... anchovies and green olive on one, canadian bacon and onions on another, maybe a quasi-dessert looking pizza here or there. Only two slots for the "common" pizza types -- pepperoni, sausage, or supreme. They'd make one pepperoni, put it on the bar, and it would be gone in less than a minute. Another one? Well, that'll take 15-20 minutes.

In other words, it's like a top-40 station playing just the bottom 20 songs on the Billboard "Hot 100" -- "All the stiffs, none of the hits"

It's really aggravating, because pizza is one of the few areas where my food tastes are perfectly in lockstep with popular favor. Pepperoni is the #1 pizza, and that happens to be my favorite. I mean, Ci Ci's or Pizza Inn almost always have the common pizzas on the bar, and if they're gone, you're generally not more than a minute or two away from another one hot out of the oven.

I thought it might be a Troy thing (imagine that....), so I went in there ass/u/me'ing that we'd be greeted by a "real" buffet.

Wrong, Roscoe.

It seems this is common SOP in most all Pizza Hut buffets. And a woman was eating lunch that day who used to work in a Pizza Hut. She told me, "They put all the crap out on the buffet so you'll buy a good pizza at full price." And we know how economical Pizza Hut pizzas are. *snort*

And I have to say something about our "server." I won't give his name, but let's just say he redefined the "prissy queen" stereotype. Upon entering, he said, "This way..." Seraphim told me after lunch that were he to have said "Walk this way", she would have done just that. ;-)

As for lunch, it was disappointing. They did bring out a pepperoni, and by feat of modern mountain miracle, I managed to cop a few slices before it all disappeared.

I guess you can tell we had a gay ol' time.

Before going back to the cabin, we took a little joyride, including to the area along Old 19 outside of Mount Nebo where a decent "Mail Pouch" barn specimen still stands.....
"Treat Yourself to the Best"

I love those barns. If you want to see some beautiful examples of MPBs, go here. Just "treat yourself"........

Feeding the fish, or: "Where's their little underwater castle?"

There's a small pond behind our cabin, and Seraphim went out there with some cracker crumbs to give the goldfish swimming around in there. There were a good dozen or so, and all of them were totally oblivious to the free food product my wife placed atop them. The pond was still in liquid form, although tomorrow morning it would be frozen over.

LEFT: Mr. Rogers would've been proud. Can you say "We're cold?"
RIGHT: Icicles along the cabin. Wanna stand underneath?

Sera went back into the bedroom for a small late-afternoon nap while I walked around outside for a while. I found myself pacing back and forth along the little road at the bottom of the hollow, but I was just drinking it all in. Tomorrow meant going home, so I was trying to cram 51 weeks' worth of West Virginia splendor into 51 minutes.

After the missus woke up, she started on supper. We'd bought a couple of big-ass steaks at the grocery store after getting there Saturday night. She and I dined on succulent New York strip steak and a tasty baked potato. After I finished, I told my wife, "Well, that tasted like crap." To which she responded, "Thank you, sweetheart. I'm glad you liked it."

Yeah, boy. Good eatin' at the cabin tonight.

The evening was spent watching some DVDs, and then we called it a night. A long drive was ahead of us.


03 March 2008

WV-08 DAY 4: Sweet times in Little Switzerland

Tal & Sera's Excellent West Virginia Adventure

DAY FOUR - Monday, 18 February.
Agenda: The village of Helvetia, West Virginia.

What yesterday was – warm (60-ish degrees) and nicely overcast (no direct winter sun) – today wasn't. Cold and rainy. 34 degrees on the Rupert Thermometer as we left the cabin.

One big item on our to-do list for today: a pleasant day-trip to the small town of Helvetia (hel-VAY-sha), located about 75-80 miles from us in Randolph County. It's about 90 minutes by the route of least resistence (which resembled a hook), but that adds about 20 miles to the trip. Consulting our trusty West Virginia Gazetteer, I plotted a "short cut" routing that took us over some nice mountainous 2-lanes toward the heart of metro Helvetia.

Seraphim was eager about visiting Helvetia — it's a very (and I mean VERY) isolated town, in the middle of nowhere (even by West Virginia standards). It was settled in the 1800s by Swiss immigrants, and the isolation of the area caused the people to maintain their native customs and heritage. Some call Helvetia "Little Switzerland." Well, I too was fascinated about this place, especially after reading the brochure we found at the welcome center. There's a small restaurant in town called The Hutte. Now given that I am something of a "basic meat and potatoes" kind of guy, I was more than a little apprehensive about what constituted Swiss cuisine. Still, I wanted to experience the place. Heck, if nothing on the menu suited my taste, I could find some brown and serve rolls and eat ‘em raw.

We started by topping off our gas tank in Summersville – BP was $3.09/9 – and away we went. It's a pleasant drive along Route 41, then 20. There were some royally crazy hairpin turns along a mountain descent that took us into Webster Springs. The really cool thing about it was we had a super view of the town as we zig-zagged our way downhill.

And leaving Webster Springs, we continued on Route 20 northward (and up another mountain). This took us toward Hacker Valley, where the gazetteer indicated a county road connected us with the wilds of Helvetia.
I just love the look of pony-truss bridges.

Once in the town – or, as my Dad would call it, "wide place in the road" – of Hacker Valley, we crossed a creek – or, as my Seraphim would call it, "crick" – on a really nice pony-truss bridge, something one doesn't see too often in the Deep South. And then came our right-hand turn. County road 3, or Hacker Valley Road.

After crossing a short bridge over a creek-– um, crick -- running parallel to Route 20 (I'm Southern – it's awkward saying "Route" instead of "Highway"), we were in for the surprise of our lives:

There was nothing in the brochure about THIS!

HVR/CR3 is basically a one-lane road. There's a clear path of travel, a set of tire tracks along a quasi-paved roadway. There are ‘shoulders' every now and again for two vehicles to pass one another. But not everywhere. Much of Hacker Valley Road runs along a mountainside, with a very steep dropoff to our right. And did I mention there are no guard rails along this entire stretch of road??

Seraphim and I bravely, if with trepidation, continued on the road. The missus got nervous more than several times, as she'd look out her window and see about 100+ feet down. She felt vertigo a time or two! Yeah, the dropoffs came right to the edge of the pavement in spots. I was a little uneasy myself, in particular around those blind curves. Everything to the left was uphill, so leftward curves were a bit nerve-wracking .... I worried about the cocky local who'd speed around those turns, thinking "Nobody drives this road at this time of day, I have it to myself!"

What this was, was as rural and isolated as it could get in West Virginia. Picture, if you will, two "flatland tourists" from Georgia traversing through an empty, isolated one-lane road in pure Appalachian wilderness. Again, no guardrails. No signage. No pavement markings. No houses. But in spite of any misgivings, I was feeling such a rush. I told you, I love mountain roads!

It was around here that we began seeing snow mixed in with the (mostly light) rain. And about halfway down this roughly 12-mile stretch of county road, there was snow on the ground.

As for oncoming traffic, we saw just two (2) pickups, both together. Lucky for us, it was at a straightaway with some shoulder room. We could pass one another abreast. Phew!

Like I said, there were no signs ... I pulled over nearly halfway at a good spot, and while Seraphim got some good video footage of the snow, I consulted the gazetteer. The really cool thing about those maps is that the remotest backroads are listed, and with the average scale (one inch = 2 miles), nearly every curve is shown. And per this road's path, we should be crossing from Webster into Randolph County any minute now. Webster County 3 would become Randolph County 47.

The only evidence of changing counties was the pavement. One county's maintenance to another. Well, Seraphim could breathe again ... Hacker Valley Road was now a full two lanes. But for me, we went from one issue to another: at least the one-lane road was smooth and had few potholes. This two-lane portion was riddled with chuckholes!! Worse, they all were filled with water, so I couldn't tell the difference between small dips and enormously deep craters! I was dodging holes left and right.

Then there was evidence of civilization. Houses! Church steeple! Our mountainside path became a downhill pitch into the small community of Pickens.

Pickens is a beautiful little mountain village, and it was here that we saw another encouraging sight: pavement stripes! Pickens is served by two other county roads, and fortunately they're better maintained!!

From here, it's another five miles to Helvetia. We knew it was close at hand when we spotted an old, faded sign which had to have been a good 20+ years old: PHONE - 1 MILE

Ahhhh, relics of a day when cellphones were practically non-existent. No, wait – this is mountainous West Virginia; cellphones are practically non-existent. (Signals are plentiful, provided one is within sight of a major U.S. or interstate highway, otherwise you take your chances).
The Swiss flag flying proudly on the town quad told us we had arrived. Helvetia is a beautiful little village to hear it described, but to see it ... wow! The town can't be more than 300 or so people, and it's near an intersection of two county roads.

Helvetia: a million miles from the rest of the world (or so it seems)

"The Hutte" is located at the corner of said roads. It's a Swiss bungalow inside which is an amazingly intimate restaurant. There are books, knick-knacks, you name it. Seating capacity is maybe 24 at most. It's like you're eating a home-cooked meal at your grandmother's house, it's that homey.
The view from our table at The Hutte.

Two ladies were on duty, and both were the kindest and sweetest womenfolk you could ever meet. Seraphim ordered the bratwurst plate, and I had a roast beef sandwich on their (wonderful!) homemade bread. The tea was fresh, the service was highly personal, the atmosphere couldn't be beat – it was toasty warm in there, a good thing because it was 29 degrees and blustery outside.

Taking the "creative" route here felt like we'd gone far away from civilization to get to our long lost aunt's house for supper. The restaurant experience made the one-lane roads that much better.

As for the rest of the town, we didn't have much luck. Today was a weekday, and a Federal holiday to boot (Presidents' Day). The "Healing Honey" place was closed, as was The Cheese Haus. Of course, this means we'll have to make a return trip next year. And I want to do it again, too. Helvetia is a peaceful place within a largely peaceful state.
Going back, we took ‘the roads more traveled.' Yet, one doesn't find much evidence of commerce along any of these roads, either. Take gas stations, for instance. Helvetia doesn't have one. Neither did Pickens. And the small communities we passed through going back to Route 20 didn't have any pumps out front, either. Which leads me to this question: Where do these rural West Virginia people get their gasoline?? I mean, if you drive 30 miles in an F-150 pickup to the gas station, then you've burned at least 1/4 of your tank going back home. Hell, you'll need half a tank just to get to the gas station to begin with!!!

Once onto Route 20, then Route 4, then US-19, we made a slight detour to Walkersville to see a modest little covered bridge....
We stayed south on 19 until we got to Sutton ... we'd pick up I-79 around there and rejoin US-19 for the four-lane trip back into Summersville and Mount Nebo.

Just north of Sutton I spotted yet another magnificent "Mail Pouch" barn....
Once we got back into Summersville, it was about time for supper. We ate at the Bob Evans, then went to the shopping center behind it for a trip to Goodwill. Sera wanted to look around in there, and since I rarely ever turn down the opportunity to rummage through a thrift store, I was just as eager to make that diversion.

In the Goodwill, I found an old Gino Vannelli album from 1976 ... for 99 cents, it went home with Talmadge. Also I found a couple of VHS tapes worth looking at. One was the final episode of MST3K from 1999, and a Sesame Street retrospective special from 1999.

What's funny were all the Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes and Barry White albums I found in the bin. I dare say that was the closest thing to an African-American as we saw in West Virginia. ;-)

Both of us wanted to find out what the weather was going to do. So what options do a traveling couple have when there's no cellphone signal or TV reception at the cabin? Make that a traveling couple with a laptop. Any wi-fi hotspots around? We tried all the motels in Summersville, but all of ‘em are password protected, drat it!

We had one option left: WARDRIVING!

I drove around some residential streets, while Sera held the laptop as the signal-snooper did its work finding an unsecured wireless connection. Hey, as I see it, if you're foolish enough to use a wireless router without slapping a password on it, then you deserve anything that happens. At least we're not malicious.

We found one, conveniently adjacent to a shopping center parking lot. I pulled up a weather forecast, then we both checked our e-mail.

Our appreciation goes to the nice family who unwittingly supplied us with a side helping of their bandwidth casserole.

That pretty much took care of the driving around part of our trip. The plan was for us to just hang out at the cabin Tuesday before heading back home on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the snow was falling, and the forecast called for maybe an inch or so.

We settled in for another night in our happy little hollow.