Friday, February 23, 2007

Long Drive to the Mountains

The drive to Grants Pass, OR ended up being really nice. It was like a four hour drive, but it was a bit longer trying to leave Portland, due to a little bit of a rush hour, and there was a pretty bad accident on the other side of the road. We stopped pretty damn close to being in California. Notable sights included lots of fields that seemed a bit greener than is natural with countless sheep grazing. It definitely had an Ireland sort of look to it that I didn't expect to be out here. The farther south we traveled, the less flat the terrain became. The occasional vineyards were even visible. A few hills in the distance turned into all kinds of sharp turns and steep climbs in the road. The speed limit was constantly changing, and the road was a bit slick... definitely a highway that commanded constant attention. There were all kinds of trucks with logs being towed. I imagine such a jagged countryside isn't good for much other than lumber. The mountains started to get tall enough that the tops were still covered with snow. Grants Pass itself ended up being a decent sized place. I had assumed that it was going to be barely hospitable due to the mountains, but they had a mall or two even from what I could see. Since it was only a branch of the main business, we were done working there in less than an hour. Then, it was lunch, and back on the road for another 4 hours. Pretty exciting.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Portland, Son

I got back from New York State on Monday. After less than 24 hours at home, it was off to Portland, OR. Luckily we found a flight out of Springfield Capitol Airport. So far all my flights have been out of St. Louis, which adds an hour and a half to every trip which is a pain. Portland is my kind of city. I've only been here a couple days now, but I've been pretty impressed with what I've seen. The area around the truck parts place that we are working on is pretty industrial, pretty easy to guess that. But I guess there's been a bit of a trendy revival in this area, the Northwest part of town. Old buildings that might otherwise just rot have been renovated into apartments and restaurants, which gives everything alot of character.

There's all kinds of fun stuff on the Portland Wikipedia page (wikipedia by the way, is really the only web-page that you need). Matt Groening, the creator of the Simpsons, is a Portland native. He named several of the characters from the show after streets in this area. There's a Lovejoy, Quimby, and a Flanders street. I saw a couple of them on a long walk I took last night. The layout of the streets in this area is awesome for someone from out of town. The streets are numbered going one way, then the streets going the other way are in alphabetical order. Pretty smart way to do things I think. I ended up dominating some sushi and sake at a little Japanese place that I found along the way.

Portland is like the beer capital of the US, and its the birthplace of the microbrewery movement. There's a large chain of breweries/pubs called McMenamins that buy random old buildings such as a school and a ballroom and turn them into trendy pubs. Pretty cool, I ate at one that dated back to prohibition. I hear that Portland also has several movie theatres that serve beer, so I might have to try to make time to visit one of those.

So yeah, all kinds of exciting stuff. I'll be here until Tuesday, so I'm cautiously optimistic about being able to do some fun stuff in my free time. Tomorrow, though, we are doing a day trip to a branch in Grants Pass, OR. That just so happens to be on the opposite end of the state, so I'm in for an early, long drive. I'm hoping the scenery might be worth it, as it wont just be cornfields and barns like it is in Illinois.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Johnstown Showdown

Well, it is currently Friday, and I am sitting in a hotel room in Johnstown, NY. I think that the travel gods are punishing me for something. You see I have been pretty bummed out about the lack of free time on my trips. You know, you go somewhere cool, and you would like to have an hour or two to see something, right? Well sure enough, my free time hits me like a pile of really boring bricks in a town covered with several feet of dullness covered with several feet of snow. But I came prepared. I recently bought a Nintendo DS to battle moments just like these. So.. I've been rockin' out to some Animal Crossing and keepin' it real.

I also took this opportunity to sample one of the local brews, Genesee beer. Apparently its only sold in a few of the northeastern states, so this is a rare opportunity. The beer, on the other hand, is anything but rare. Its not bad, but it bears a resemblance to Keystone, and is along the same price range. I am, though, one step closer to having tasted every beer on the earth, so that's exciting.

One thing that I thought was interesting on the Johnstown website is a section where it outlines an interesting city ordinance. It pretty much amounts to "if you don't shovel your sidewalk by noon everyday, the city is going to do it for you and charge you for it." I imagine that could get old pretty quick.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Snow Day, Hurray!

I didn't have to go to work today due to the very treacherously icy roads. I was pretty sad about it for several minutes. So I've been catching up on my recently neglected video games. Every weekend day that I spend in someone's computer closet, I get a comp day that I can take off whenever, so that's kinda nice. Not that I think trading my Saturday for a snowy Tuesday is exactly a fair trade, but I guess it's better than nothing.

I got up nice and early this last Saturday in order to go see Senator Obama give his speech announcing his run for president. It all went down within the spiky black fence of the Old State Capitol in Springfield. Unfortunately, by the time I got there, that space was occupied by reporters, people with tickets, and those crazy enough to get up earlier. So I was reduced to watching it from across the street. It wasn't that big of a problem, though, because I still had a pretty good view of him. The speech itself was pretty lame I thought. It was filled with big generalities, like "let's reduce poverty" and things like that. Things that in my opinion aren't even worth uttering if there isn't some sort of actual plan of action involved. At the moment I don't think that Obama has much of a chance of winning, but I will follow his campaign all the same. I think that he is an interesting figure, and it's fun that he is from Illinois.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Atlanta and Egypt

My trip this weekend to Atlanta ended up being a blitzkrieg, as I don't think that I was in Atlanta even 24 hours.
The trip itself was nothing exciting, so probably not worth talking about, just boring computer stuff. The dealership itself ended up being in Hapeville, GA to be exact. Probably the most interesting thing about the trip was the Atlanta airport. During the obligatory half-lost wandering at the airport I ended up seeing Brad Sherwood from Who's Line is it Anyway. There was also a professional wrestler and his entourage waiting at the luggage merry-go-round. I don't watch wrestling, so I am unsure who it was exactly, but there were several people getting autographs. It makes me happy to think that even rich, famous people still have to put up with a lot of the crap that the rest of us do at the airport. It would have been pretty amusing to see this big badass professional wrestler forced to take off all of his gold chains, his shoes, and his cellphone, put them in a plastic bin, push them onto a conveyor belt, and wait in line for them to come out the other end of the x-ray equipment.

Tonight I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Hatem Abdelkader, an Egyptian diplomat stationed in Rome. He was visiting Springfield on a short tour of the US sponsored by the US State Department and the Springfield Commission on International Visitors. I love talking about international affairs and meeting people from other countries, and this was a great opportunity to do both. My parents and I took him out to dinner just to entertain him a bit during his very short stay in our city. He gave me an Italian leather wallet as a thankyou, which is pretty nice. I've been thinking about getting a new wallet anyway, so I was pretty happy about it. Tim Davlin, the mayor of Springfield was at the bar on our way out, so we shmoozed with him a bit too. It was nice to have a conversation about world affairs with someone from a different perspective. I'm impressed that Springfield is as involved in these programs as it is, its pretty fun stuff.