Archive for the 'travel' Category

Leaving on a jet plane

Friday, August 4th, 2006

Alas, I must bid Mrs. Toast a fond au revoir, at least temporarily. Due to the fact that she (unlike me) is gainfully employed, her boss unfortunately expects her back at work next Monday; she has therefore hopped a flight from New York back to Texas. However, this leaves me unencumbered to drift aimlessly about the eastern portion of the United States by myself for the next several weeks, restricted only by my oxygen needs and credit card limit. Ah … the freedom of the open road, with no schedule or obligations, travelin’ and a-livin’ off the land, just me and you and a dog named Boo, how I love bein’ a free man and I … no wait, that’s a really bad 70′s song. Never mind.

Speaking of old songs, however, today I crossed from New York back to Massachusetts, driving the length of the Mass Pike on the way to visit friends in my old home town of Hamilton. This route, which passes through the lovely village of Stockbridge in western Mass, always conjures up two musical golden nuggets for me — the first being by James Taylor:

  Now the first of December was covered with snow
  And so was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston
  Lord, the Berkshires seemed dream-like on account of that frosting
  With ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go

  There’s a song that they sing when they take to the highway
  A song that they sing when they take to the sea
  A song that they sing of their home in the sky
  Maybe you can believe it if it helps you to sleep
  But singing works just fine for me

  Goodnight you moonlight ladies
  Rockabye Sweet Baby James
  Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose
  Won’t you let me go down in my dreams
  And rockabye Sweet Baby James

The second tune that comes to mind is the classic 18-minute opus by Arlo Guthrie entitled Alice’s Restaurant, the rambling tale (set in Stockbridge) of a Thanksgiving feast gone bad which morphs into a biting satirical commentary on the draft and the Vietnam war. The song has always been near and dear to my heart due to a similar experience I had during that era, when I was nearly conscripted into the Army myself while living in the Virgin Islands. My shameless shenanigans during my pre-induction physical exam (conducted in San Juan, Puerto Rico), while not sufficient to have me placed on “The Group W Bench”, nevertheless disqualified me for military service. The full story of this fiasco is simply much too embarrassing to relate here in the blog, but for those of you who have read about some of my previous antics in this space and may occasionally wonder about my sanity, all I need to say is “use your imagination”.

After spending a few days here tromping around my old homestead, my next stop will be to visit another friend in upstate Maine (state motto: “Nearly Canada”). On Saturday August 12th, I will be a guest on the Radio Timtron Worldwide program, broadcast over 50,000-watt shortwave powerhouse WBCQ – The Planet, and hosted by my friend Tim — another boyhood pal. The Timtron is a ham radio operator known quite literally all over the world, and is quite a character. He’s a bit, er, “eccentric” (but in a loveable sort of way) and perhaps one of the few people in the world who can make me look more or less normal by comparison. WBCQ is also available as a streaming audio feed over the Internet, so any readers who might be curious can catch this once-in-a-lifetime event “live”. It should be quite interesting, and I’ll post further details as the date gets closer.

Yes, the Toastmobile has already covered nearly 3,000 miles so far, and many more adventures still await down the road … so stay tuned!

Loose Moose

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006

For the benefit of fellow blogger Moose in the Kitchen, Mrs. Toast is shown here modeling the latest in Vermont fashions (click the photo for a larger version). Moose (Mooses? Meese?) are quite popular critters in this part of the country. “Caution: Moose Crossing” signs can be seen every few miles or so on the highway, and many moose-themed shops and restaurants are also featured, such as The Cool Moose Creamery where we stopped in Concord, NH. (Ms. Moose, if you ever consider replacing your car, I think you should call this place and make them an offer on the Moose Wagon.) We also picked up maple sugar candy in the shape of moose antlers, as well as other tasty treats. Fortunately, the store has a web site for anyone who absolutely must have similar moose-logo’d items.

You want them. You know you do.

Moving on

Friday, July 28th, 2006

Today we leave Lake Winnipesaukee behind and move on through the scenic Green Mountains of Vermont, on our way back to my sister’s place. Internet access may be spotty for the next few days, but I can report to my loyal blog readers (all three of you) that, alas, we did not meet any celebrities whatsoever today. Not even this guy.

Yes, yes, I know … we’re falling down on the job. We’ll try to do better tomorrow, honest. However, we did stop at a little gift shop just outside of Killington, VT, and picked up a couple of boxes of these for our Republican friends back home in Texas:

Just the perfect thing to get that bad political taste out of the mouth. I’m sure they’ll be thrilled.

New England Cuisine

Thursday, July 27th, 2006

One of the things I miss the most since moving to Texas is not being able to walk into any restaurant (even one that allegedly specializes in seafood and/or ice cream) and order a “clam roll and a mocha frappe”. Do that anywhere else but in New England and you’re liable to be greeted with a blank stare from someone who has obviously never heard of two of the finest food items on the planet. Up here, the landscape is literally dotted with little walk-up clam shacks and dairy bars like this one:

We stopped at Tamaracks (shown above, in Weirs Beach, NH), a drive-up legendary for its fried clams and lobster rolls, and said by some to be the best in the land. It was pretty decent all right, but really, almost every little mom ‘n pop shop makes a wicked good clam roll: start with a true New England-style hot dog bun with soft sides buttered and grilled to a toasty crisp, then pile on a mound of sweet fried clams cooked belly-in.

Another restaurant famous all over New England and beyond is the Clam Box, located just up the road from my old home town of Hamilton, in Ipswich, Mass:

The Clam Box has the unique architectural distinction of being built to look like an actual box of clams the way you used to get them back when I was a kid. It’s always been a favorite place of mine, although the price of a clam roll has gone way up from the $1.50 I recall back then, to nearly ten bucks today.

Walk-up ice cream stands can be found all over the place up here; nearly every town, no matter how small, has at least one or two. Most hand-make their own ice cream instead of buying the mass-produced machine-packed stuff you get anywhere else, and it’s a traditional summer evening ritual to order your ice cream cone or sundae at the window, then eat it outdoors while watching the blue flashes from the bug-zapper for entertainment. For anyone unfamiliar with the word, a frappe is very similar to a milk shake, only made with real ice cream instead of blended soft-serve like you’d get at a DQ, Burger King, or Sonic. They’re much richer, and come in a wider variety of flavors than your basic chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla.

I’m thoroughly enjoying these treats I remember from my youth, although the flip side of this is that my transformation back to a New Englander seems to have already begun. I had a conversation with someone today in which I used the word “sure”, and actually caught myself pronouncing it “shoo-ah”. This could be a dangerous sign. If I’m not careful, any moment now I’ll be wanting to pahk my cah in the Hahvahd Yahd.

Live from New York, er, Hampshire…it’s Mr Toast!

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

Yes, that really is me standing next to Jimmy Fallon aboard the Lake Winnipesaukee cruise ship Mt. Washington earlier today. Much to my surprise, I met the former Saturday Night Live star and Weekend Update co-anchor while he was in New Hampshire enjoying some R&R time away from his hectic schedule in New York. Jimmy was quite gracious and welcomed me to visit with him for about 10-15 minutes or so before he went down to dinner with his girlfriend and her family, who live in the area. When I asked him somewhat incredulously, “what the hell are you doing on the Mt. Washington?”, his deadpan response was “Rehab.” We talked about everything from Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch’s new NBC pilot 30 Rock, his own departure from SNL and his next movie, to my pulmonary fibrosis (which we referred to as “Jerry Lewis Disease“). He seemed quite interested in the fact that I had been a disk jockey in the past, and when I told him that my last gig was as an engineer for an NBC-network television station, he put his arm around me and told me I was “one of the family”.

Funny guy, and a delightful cap to a fantastic day on the lake. This has been a great vacation so far, and it’s not over yet!

The obligatory stereotypical vacation photo

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

If you’d like to see a lot more pictures of the Toasted Tour 2006 Road Trip, click here.

The view off my front porch

Monday, July 24th, 2006

This portion of our vacation is being spent on beautiful Lake Winnepesaukee, New Hampshire. Lake Winnie, as most folks up here call it, is the largest lake in New England and was my favorite spot during many a summer vacation as a boy growing up in Massachusetts. The above photos are of our view fom the front porch of our lakeside efficiency cabin, shortly after we arrived yesterday. You can see the Ossipee range in the foreground, and if you look carefully, the summit of Mount Washington, the highest peak east of the Mississippi, is barely visible in the distance. Today has been spent in total relaxation, sitting out on the deck enjoying this spectacular scenery, and the endless parade of passing boats of all types and sizes; everything from the smallest outboards, to gorgeous sailboats, luxury yachts, cigarette boats and mini-ocean liners like the m/v Mt. Washington, on which we plan to cruise tomorrow. We’re spending most of the week here, and will ramble through Vermont back to my sister’s place this coming weekend.

Not too shabby.

We have landed!

Thursday, July 20th, 2006

The Toastcraft has successfully touched down at our first destination, my sister’s home in Woodstock, New York. We’ll pause for a few days here and after refueling (at $3.09 a gallon – ouch!) will soon be back on the road again, heading further north and east to Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts.

More news and photos to follow shortly.


Road hazards

Tuesday, July 18th, 2006

Seen today on I-81 southbound, just outside of Staunton, VA:

You can’t really tell from this angle, but there’s another car under the truck. The Interstate was completely shut down for hours, and traffic behind this accident backed up for at least twenty miles or more. In the resulting parking lot on the highway, groups of folks were gathered outside their vehicles to talk, play ball or frisbee, walk their dogs, etc. while they waited for the wreck to be cleared. There was nothing else to do. Fortunately, we were going in the opposite direction.

Today’s portion of the trip was the most arduous: our 12-hour-plus driving day has covered over 700 miles of ground through five states, from Nashville to Harrisburg, PA. In addition to avoiding the accident above, we also narrowly missed being sideswiped earlier on the same highway by some asshole who cut across four lanes of traffic and nearly rammed into our van, coming literally within a few inches of hitting us. I give some serious props to Mrs. Toast (who was driving at the time) for a tire-screeching yet textbook-perfect accident avoidance maneuver. Fate was truly smiling on us today; we ran into showers which slicked the roads soon after this happened, but if the rain had come a little bit sooner, our sudden braking would most surely have thrown us into an unrecoverable skid. Also, about two weeks before the trip, I had noticed our two rear tires were looking a bit thin and replaced them. Had I not, this might have made just enough of a slight difference in the van’s handling under the stressful maneuver to have erased the few inches of clearance between only having our nerves shaken up and actual crunching of metal.

Thank you Saint Christopher!

More from Mississippi

Tuesday, July 18th, 2006

Here’s a few more pictures from our trip so far:

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Mrs. Toast on the patio of Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, MS. On Saturday night, we were treated to a fine rhythm and blues review show by local favorites “Wiley and the Checkmates“. Their repitoire is more “Blues Brothers” than Delta blues, featuring a tight horn section and a some great old soul and funk tunes from the likes of James Brown, Joe Tex, Johnny Taylor, Sam & Dave, etc. The club is partly owned by famed local resident Morgan Freeman, but we never expected to see him there. So after we got seated and ordered a drink, I was skeptical when Mrs. Toast said, “Isn’t that Morgan Freeman sitting two tables up from us?” Much to my surprise, however, it actually was him! I got to shake his hand and say hello; he stayed for the band’s first set but left early. Wouldn’t you know this was the one time I did not have my camera with me.

The next day we saw this car down the street from the club, and still feeling in a “Blues Brothers” mood, we felt like this was what we should have been driving instead of our van. Anyone want to go to the shopping mall?

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Below: exterior of the club, which was once a cotton inspection warehouse.

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Close-up of the window sign. Note the poster to the right.

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More photos coming soon!

Standing at the Crossroads

Monday, July 17th, 2006

By Robert Johnson

I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees.
I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees.
Asked the lord above for mercy, save me if you please.

I went down to the crossroads, tried to flag a ride.
I went down to the crossroads, tried to flag a ride.
Nobody seemed to know me, everybody passed me by.

I’m going down to Rosedale, take my rider by my side.
I’m going down to Rosedale, take my rider by my side.
You can still barrelhouse, baby, on the riverside.

You can run, you can run, tell my friend-boy willie brown.
You can run, you can run, tell my friend-boy willie brown.
And I’m standing at the crossroads, believe I’m sinking down.


by Mr. Toast
(with apologies to R.J.)

I went down to the crossroads, played my air git-tar
I went down to the crossroads, played my air git-tar
Gotta be pretty careful
Not to get hit by a car

Oh I went down to the crossroads, ate me some Bar-B-Q
Oh I went down to the crossroads, ate me some Bar-B-Q
Had beans and cole slaw
A Doctor Pepper too

Yeah I went down to the crossroads … bought me a a sofa, dining room suite and an area rug that was marked 40% off retail but still overpriced:

Just kidding about buying the furniture, but it seems that the legendary spot where Robert Johnson was said to have sold his soul to the devil is being exploited in a big way. Now dems’s de blues.

We have photos!

Sunday, July 16th, 2006

As we travel through the south, one thing that amazes me is how resourceful people can be when they have so very little to work with. A classic case in point is the little town of Transylvania, Louisiana (pop. 743), to which I hereby grant the coveted Toasted Tour 2006 “Making Something Out Of Nothing” award. The name “Transylvania” comes from the latin word for “across the woods”. If you recall your American history, The Transylvania Company was formed in the 1770′s in an attempt to establish a new fourteenth colony of the same name (modeled after Pennsylvania), by purchasing land from Native Americans in an area which is now part of Kentucky and Tennessee. The most notable proponent and explorer of this territory was one Daniel Boone. Although the effort failed, the name stuck around, and most likely the sharecropper outpost later created by the company known as the Transylvania Project during the time of the Louisiana Purchase is how the town got its name.

However, the name “Transylvania” entered the public’s consciousness in a entirely different form in the late 19th century, when Bram Stoker wrote of the ancient area of Romania as being the home of the evil Count Dracula. Ever since, “Transylvania” and “vampires” have existed side-by-side in popular cultural awareness.

So. Here you are in an absolute vacuum of a community in the middle of miles and miles of cotton fields (right), literally nothing but a bend in the road with a few houses, a school, and a general store. But then one day, someone has a brainstorm: our town has the same name as the home of a famous vampire! Hey, let’s capitalize on that! Let’s say we’re the home of the “fighting bats” school mascot, and put it on the side of our water tower!

Wait – here’s a better idea! Let’s sell a lot of batty merchandise at the general store, and stamp letters with a special “Transylvania” bat postmark!

Hell, maybe we can even entice people from Texas who would otherwise barely blink as they passed through our miniscule town on their way to, say, Memphis, to actually stop at our general store if the female passenger in the vehicle happens to have a slight fascination with a certain fictional bloodsucker! What a great idea!

As long as we’re on a roll here, let’s try to push some tatty, overpriced, made-in-Taiwan coozies, caps, ash trays, or anything else adorned with a logo that vaguely has something to do with “vampires” or “bats” on these gullible tourists, and make them sorry they ever wasted fifteen minutes of their lives to stop and look at this crap!

Yeah, that’s what we’ll do!!

We have liftoff!

Saturday, July 15th, 2006

This bulletin just in from Mission Control: the Toastcraft Tracking Center reports that the vehicle is currently about 400 miles downrange after a successful launch early this morning. Weather conditions are nominal, and all systems are A-OK for tonight’s extra-vehicular activity at Ground Zero Blues Club, located near the legendary “Crossroads” of Highways 49 and 61 in Clarksdale, Mississipi. Unfortunately, only slow dial-up internet access is available at this moment, so further details will have to wait until communication conditions improve. Over and out.

All systems “go” for launch

Friday, July 14th, 2006

The countdown clock is fast approching zero hour. The vehicle is fueled and ready on the launch pad, and we will be preparing for takeoff very shortly. As you can see, we have a nice, comfortably-appointed, climate-controlled crew cabin:

And the pilot’s cockpit is equipped with the latest technology, including GPS-enabled voice-activated computer navigation system with digital mission-status readout; BlackBerry and cellular communications transponder; supplental oxygen dispensing system; 600-watt 110-volt AC power inverter; thermoelectrically controlled chilled beverage cooler; and 220-watt four-channel aftermarket MP3/CD stereo system:

Latest dynamic tracking projections show that the vehicle is scheduled to pass over the following states during it’s 4,000-mile flight trajectory:

  • Texas
  • Louisiana
  • Arkansas
  • Mississippi
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Pennsylvania
  • New York
  • Massachusetts
  • Vermont
  • New Hampshire
  • Maine
  • New Jersey
  • Delaware
  • Maryland
  • District of Columbia
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Georgia
  • Alabama

Re-entry into the Texasphere is expected in approximately three weeks. Watch this space for further updates from mission control following (hopefully) a sucessful liftoff tomorrow morning.

Highway 61 Revisited

Monday, July 3rd, 2006

Blogging may be light in the next two weeks, as pre-departure planning and packing intensifies for the Toasted Tour 2006 Road Trip. If you look over in my sidebar, you’ll note that the seconds are continuing to fall away from our countdown clock at an alarming rate, and it will be time to hit the highway before we know it.

As shown on the map to your left, the first phase of our travels on our way to New England will take us through the heart of the Mississippi delta to revisit some old stomping grounds from my wild n’ crazy single days. For a time, I worked with a radio entrepreneur who contracted management and programming services to small stations throughout the mid-South. As such, part of my responsibilities was to spend as much time on-site at the local stations as necessary to get them up to speed, and for the better part of a year I traveled to such major metropolitan areas as Lake Providence, Louisiana (pop. 4,704) and Clarksdale, Mississippi.

While I don’t expect much from Lake Providence — merely a bend in the muddy river with little to distinguish itself — I did live there for several months and it should be interesting to pass through it again. However, after crossing the Mississippi at Greenville and continuing north, I have much higher hopes for Clarksdale, a town with a solid reputation for its revered historical place in the uniquely American music form called the Blues.

Clarksdale is quite literally the birthplace of The Blues; the intersection of Highways 49 and 61 is the legendary “Crossroads” where Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul to the devil in exchange for the ability to play the blues. It’s also the home of the internationally-known Delta Blues Museum and was the former residence of musicians and celebrities like Sam Cooke, John Lee Hooker, Ike Turner and Tennessee Williams. Its most well-known current resident is actor Morgan Freeman, who is a partner in a 5-star restaurant and entertainment venue called the Ground Zero Blues Club. Fortunately, our road trip plans put us in Clarksdale on Saturday night (July 15), so with any luck we’ll be able to catch a live performance at Ground Zero and enjoy a tasty pulled-pork “Sammich”. Details and photos will be posted here afterwards.

From there, we’ll be heading up the road known as the “Blues Highway” — Route 61 — to Memphis, another town famous for it’s contribution to the American music scene. Before the Interstate system was in place, Highway 61 was the major north-south route from New Orleans to the Canadian border, and has a near-mythical status similar to Route 66. Many musicians have composed tributes to this road; Bob Dylan’s classic album is considered by many to be his best, and other music legends such as Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley took the blues to Chicago along the highway’s path. When I lived in Clarksdale, there wasn’t much to do at the time; on weekends I would drive Highway 61 up to Memphis to party at the many clubs there, so this trip will nostalgically retrace my steps from those days. Memphis is a fine city, and I can’t wait to see how it’s changed and grown since I was last there over twenty years ago. We will certainly spend some time on Sunday checking out the shops, clubs, and restaurants on Beale Street, and if you look at the live Beal-cam, you may possibly see me mugging for the camera at some point during that day.

The name “Memphis” brings a number of names in American music history to mind, such as W.C. Handy and B.B. King, but most folks associate only one “king” with the town, and that of course is Elvis. I am not really a fan, but I did visit Graceland many years ago out of curiosity. Mrs. Toast is not a fan either, so we’ll likely skip the tour this time around. However, if any of my loyal blog readers have a serious affection for Mr. Presley, please let me know and I’ll try to pick up some sort of tacky souvenir item for you while we’re in the vicinity. I can’t promise much, but I’ll try.

After Memphis, our next stop will be the Country Music capital of the world, Nashville. (Oddly, I’m not much of a country music fan either so I’m not sure why I’m quite so excited by our itinerary so far.) Although we don’t plan on spending eighty bucks on tickets to see Porter Wagoner at the Grand Ole Opry, if possible I would like to tour the concert hall from my engineer’s perspective to check out its impressive recording and broadcasting facilities. Mrs. Toast will no doubt be interested in Opry Mills Mall, the former Opryland theme park which has been converted into one of the finest shopping centers in the USA. And we have decided to splurge and spend a few extra bucks to stay one night at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, a world-class resort and conference center which is part of the Opryland complex. Hey, we’re on vacation, so why not do something different?

Well, that’s what we have planned so far; I think it will be a fun kick-off to our trip. Once we leave Nashville, it will be roughly another thousand miles to our final destination, so there’s lots more to come. Stay tuned!

Toasts On Tour!

Monday, June 12th, 2006

Now that I’ve received official word from my doctor that I won’t be requiring surgery for at least the next six months, I can let the cat out of the bag about the road trip we had been hoping to take in anticipation of this event: Mrs. Toast and I will be driving cross-country next month on a fun-filled vacation to visit relatives and friends in New England. While the high price of gasoline will mean that our fuel costs will be at least double what we spent the last time we made this same journey in 2004, commercial air travel is pretty much out of the question for me due to my continued necessity for supplemental oxygen. So, we’ll be gettin’ down for a street-level view of the great American landscape.

Frankly, I love the allure of a road trip; I get a great feeling of freedom from cruising down the open highway, listening to rockin’ road tunes, seeing new sights, and exploring new places. Our route will generally follow the path shown below, which is the shortest calculated distance between here and our destination according to my trusty DeLorme Street Atlas software:

However, because we’ll have three weeks this time (compared to only two weeks in ’04), we may alter this route — which mostly tracks I-81 — to see some places that we missed before; for example, we could take a northern swing to visit Memphis, Nashville, and the Blue Ridge mountains, or cut due east at Birmingham to go through Atlanta. In this latter case, we might also follow I-85 up through Charlotte NC, and eventually hit I-95 and possibly vist Washington DC or New York City. I plan on keeping things flexible, so if we decide to take a detour somewhere along the way, we won’t be locked into a set itinerary. And with my GPS-enabled road atlas software running on the laptop in the car, I’ll have a readout of our exact position at all times overlaid on a map that can be zoomed from cross-country down to street view, so there’s zero chance of getting lost.

If any of y’all have suggestions about what might be cool stops or entertaining diversions along this general path, please leave a comment and let me know. Or better yet, if any of my Bloggin’ Buddies will be anywhere in this general vicinity and would like to meet up for drinks and/or dinner, give me a holla as well. It would be nice to see some of you guys in person after becoming virtual friends here on the blog.

Once we arrive at my sister’s place in that bastion of Old Hippiedom, Woodstock NY, we won’t be done covering ground. I plan to stop by the old homestead and pay my respects at my Mom and Dad’s gravesite in Massachusetts. We also have friends in New Hampshire and Maine that we hope to visit as well, so it’s shaping up to be a busy three weeks!

Yeah, it’s going to be exactly like that.

Today’s lesson in Hystery

Saturday, January 28th, 2006

On our way back home from San Antonio last week, we decided to get off the freeway and take the more scenic “back route”. This would mainly be Highway 21, which is designated by the Texas Department of Highways as the “Independence Trail”. It roughly follows the path of the early pioneers as they journeyed from the central and southern portions of the territory to Nacogdoches, which for a time was the capitol of the new Republic of Texas.

Along this route are many Historical Markers. These are big slabs of granite with engraved iron plaques attached that tell a brief story of why that particular spot was historically significant. Since this area of the state is literally crawling with History, there is one of these markers approximately every other mile along the highway, representing spots where, say, some settler’s wagon shanked a wheel and broke down in 1847, and it took so long to fix it back then that they had a couple of kids and a small town grew up around them before they were able to move on. The one pictured there on the right, for example, marks the location of a 150-foot-deep hole in the ground just outside of Marble Falls. No, I am not making this up. Grave-digging was a long, tough job back in those days, which made disposing of a body much more difficult than it is now — especially if the person died under, shall we say, duress. One didn’t just call the funeral home to “handle the arrangements”. Therefore, according to the plaque, this particular very deep and Historical Hole became the final resting place for at least 17 individuals. Apparently, if you wanted to dispatch some frontier ne’er-do-well, you hung or shot him and then simply tossed his body in the hole. How very convenient. If Jimmy Hoffa had been around at the time, I’m sure he would be down there too. Now you see what I mean: isn’t that an interesting and colorful slice of American History?

Someone with a true appreciation of our nation’s History would want to stop at every one of these markers, take photos of it, and perhaps pause to thoughtfully contemplate the hardships that our forbearers had to endure as they struggled to survive in this wild, foreign land. Our homage to these hardy pioneers, however, basically consisted of me briefly taking my foot off the gas to slow down from 80 to 70 mph as we flew past, and the following exchange:

Mrs. Toast: Hey, there was another one of them hysterical markers.
Me: Huh!

To your left is an actual “live” screen capture taken of our vehicle (the little green arrow) on our GPS mapping program as we moved along our way. If you look really close at the image and zoom in on it, you might be able to make out our little tiny van. If you look really closely you can perhaps make out a little teeny tiny figure at the wheel wearing little teeny tiny glasses and an itsy-bitsy teeny tiny oxygen hose. You may even possibly be able to see that at the exact moment this image was captured, I am shaking my fist at the gigantic hay-hauling truck in front of me that is going 40 mph in a 70-mph zone. That is the disadvantage of taking the back roads: it’s mostly two lane highway, and if you get stuck behind some smuff (“smuff” is my term for a S.M.M.F., which translates to “Slow Moving Mother Fu…” well, you know) the trip can take even longer than going via the freeway, which is 40 miles further in actual distance.

Anyway, as you can see, at this point in our journey we were passing by the Historic Texas Town of Dime Box. There’s an interesting and colorful story of how Dime Box got it’s name, and how significant it was in our history — but frankly I haven’t the slightest freaking idea what it is and (with all due respect to the 40 or 50 people who live there) don’t really care. Texas has lots of oddly-named towns with similar interesting and colorful history, such as “Cut-N-Shoot”, “Hoop & Holler”, “Looneyville”, “Uncertain”, “Oatmeal”, “Ding Dong”, “Lollipop”, “Gun Barrell City”, “Chocolate Bayou”, “Truth Or Consequences” (oh wait, maybe that one’s in New Mexico), and “Dallas”. Those last two got their names from popular 70′s TV shows, the latter starring someone named “J.R. Ewing”, who caused the nation much consternation when he got shot. I think before the show came along “Dallas” was simply known as “That Big-Ass Cowboy Town on the Trinity River”.

Yes friends, you can count on this blog to be your definitive source for interesting and (mostly) accurate hysterical, er historical, information.

More photos

Saturday, January 21st, 2006

Here’s a few other shots I’ve taken so far on our visit:

This is a quieter, less developed part of the Riverwalk. Below is a picture of the place where I had lunch today, and some dining companions who shared my table:

Of course, the waitresses hate these birds because they (the birds) shit all over the tables and they (the waitresses) have to clean it up. I thought they were amusing, though; after all, back home I seldom get the opportunity to share my lunch with friendly vermin.

San Antonio is much more than just the Riverwalk; The Alamo is hallowed ground not only to Texans, but to all Americans for its place in our country’s history. The names are those of legends: Crockett, Houston, Travis, Bowie, and more. Tomorrow we may try to get out and visit some of these famous landmarks. It’s started getting cooler and rain may be moving in, but I’m still having a grand time. If the weather holds up, I should have more photos to post later.

“You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas.”
-Davy Crockett, Nov. 1835

A Bunch of Wild ‘n Crazy Liberrians

Friday, January 20th, 2006

Just in case anyone might be wondering what the heck brings me to San Antone, I’ve tagged along with Mrs. Toast who is attending the semi-annual convention of the American Liberry Association (er, excuse me, the American Library Association – damn those margaritas) of which she is a member. Now before anyone starts snickering, you can shed any preconceived notions you may have of librarians being up-tight, bespectacled, bun-haired little old ladies who spend all their time telling people “Shhhhhhh!”. No, we’re not talking about the NFRW here. Librarians are savvy specialists on the cutting edge of information technology, but I’m told they actually cultivate the old-fashioned stereotype because (a) they think it’s a big joke, and (b) it lets them get away with things that no one would expect. In reality, when librarians take off their glasses and let their hair down they become seriously wild party animals; it’s almost like having a secret identity. We hung out with a few of them this evening, and they could drink me under the table.

And damn, this town is definitely crawling with freaking librarians tonight; some 7,000 of them are here attending their midwinter conference. This is nothing compared to the 30,000 “informationologists” (a trendy inside buzzword) who will gather for the main ALA convention this coming June in New Orleans, but in the meantime they’re thick as fleas on a dog here this weekend. Did you know that there’s a secret hand symbol that librarians use to identify themselves to each other in public, kind of like “Gaydar“? Really. They put their thumb and forefinger together in the shape of an “L” (for “Library”) and hold it up to their forehead – see example here. Apparently, I must look like a librarian too, because many people on the Riverwalk have given me that secret gesture as I’ve walked past them today. I feel honored.

Seriously, I really am enjoying this visit to San Antonio, which is one of the top tourist destinations in Texas. It’s beautiful, with a decidedly European feel to it. Try to imagine a cool Paris outdoor cafe:

Set the cafe in a Venice-like waterfront atmosphere:

And then just for fun, toss in serenading Mariachis singing in Spanish:

The icing on the cake is that so far, the weather has been absolutely perfect … mid-70′s during the day and low 50′s at night. Writing this blog while hanging out on the riverfront with a cool drink has been tough, but I’ve managed to force myself. I’ve even worn my “Mr. Toast” T-shirt that I got for Christmas, in case anyone might see me and want my autograph, or something like that, but so far no one’s paid me any notice.

Except for the secret order of Liberrians.

Welcome to Margarita, Texas

Thursday, January 19th, 2006

We made it! Here’s a photo of the view from our hotel room balcony:

The trip here was fast and smooth; the most exciting event being a lunch stop for hot dogs at James Coney Island where I proceeded to spill mustard on my shirt. Yeah, I’m a wild man. My trusty DeLorme Road Atlas navigated us perfectly through unfamiliar freeways and downtown streets right to our hotel. Did I mention how much I love this software? (This, alas, is a testament to my geekiness – in case there was any doubt.)

Our digs aren’t luxe, but they’re not bad — somewhere between a Hilton and a Motel 6. The real appeal, naturally, is outside the room in the form of San Antonio’s famed riverwalk, home to some of the best Tex-Mex cuisine on the planet. After getting settled in at the hotel following our arrival, we wasted no time in getting to a riverside table and ordering mucho margaritas. For some strange reason, after consuming several of these we became unable to pronounce the word “library”, which instead became “liberry”. People who work in these establishments were, of course, “liberrians”. I can’t explain why we found this so riotously amusing; I’m certain the margaritas had absolutely nothing to do with this.

More adventures to follow!