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Ever been in the right place
at the right time....
only to realize it too late?
Right Place, Right Time

Ten Tips to Jettison Jet Lag 
Monday, October 6, 2008, 08:08 PM - Domestic Travel, Foreign Travel
Before You Fly:

Plan ahead - Begin changing your schedule a few days before you travel in preparation for the time changes to come. If your destination is eight or more hours ahead of your usual time, try going to sleep earlier several days before, and also adjust your meal times.

Get Your Sleep - Try and get a restful sleep before you fly. If the anxiety and anticipation typicaly keep you up, consider one of those Acetaminophen with a "PM" formulation (Generic and brand names: acetaminophen and diphenhydramine, oral; Acetaminophen PM; Excedrin PM; Legatrin PM; Tylenol Severe Allergy; Tylenol PM; Unisom with Pain Relief). This medicine combines a pain reliever with an antihistamine that causes drowsiness and can be used to help you fall asleep.

On the Plane:

Adjust Your Watch - After you board, set your watch to the time at your destination. Get yourself thinking you are in the time zone of your arrival.

Drink Lots of Water - Humidity is very low on flights - Death Valey-low. Low hydration is believed to contribute to jet lag.

Eat Light - Cabin pressure is lower to coincide with the higher altitude, so you may feel more bloated from heavier meals, or more lethargic. On longer flights, try not to eat out of boredom which is easy to do when your flight is several hours long.

Use Less Caffeine and Alcohol - Keep your body from getting over-stimulated, especially during sleep time in your destination time zone. The effects of alcohol are stronger inflight, and can interfere with your sleep cycle. Alcohol and coffee will dehydrate you as well.

Keep Active - Move around during the flight to keep blood circulating - stretch, rotate your hands and ankles. Even small amounts of exercise are believed to lessen the effects of jet lag.

Adjust Your Cycle - Even aboard the plane try to follow the sleep pattern of your destination - if it is night there, sleep, if not, stay awake.

When You Arrive

Go Outdoors - Get outside when you arrive - It may help reset your internal time clock faster if you experience the time of day at your destination as soon as possible. If it is daytime at your destination when you arrive, try to stay awake until the sun goes down, and then get a good night's sleep to reset your clock. Expose yourself to some sunlight every day.

Pace yourself - Give yourself time to adjust and try not to plan anything too strenuous on the day you arrive.

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Florida: A day trip to Venice 
Tuesday, September 9, 2008, 07:57 PM
My introduction to the Sarasota area was during a day and a half of leisure carved out of a week and a half long business trip to Clearwater and Orlando.

I contacted a college friend whom I hadn't seen in 26 years, and he suggested I book a night at the Osprey Inn in Osprey Florida. The hour drive from Clearwater was beautiful, the highpoint being the bay crossing over the gorgeous Florida Skyway bridge. This beauty is a suspension bridge with a steeply arched roadbed that affords panoramic views of blue water, white beaches and a vast sky.

Now the Osprey Inn is just a short way off of 75. It is a one-story motel built arround a central courtyard, where there is a nice swimming pool. Pool-facing rooms are slightly more expensive than parking-lot-facing rooms, but the whole place is very affordable at less than $100 a night, and the worst thing that can be said of the accomodations is that the rooms smell like someone is drying pool-towels in the next room... not mildewie, but a faint smell of chlorine and humidity. A nice continental breakfast is provided, and the hotel contains a nightclub that featured Karaoke on the night that I was there.

I spent most of the afternoon at a beach between Osprey and Venice. The beach was primarily crushed shell, and in a few minutes of looking I turned up about three prehistoric shark's teeth. Tiki bars abound on this little strip of a key, and the hottest part of the afternoon found my friend and I in one, sipping beers and enjoying some farm-raised oysters (the gulf has been far too hot this summer for me to even concider anything BUT farm raised...)
Early evening we returned to the beach for a local drum-circle, and later retired to the Ospery Inn Lounge for some of that Karaoke. They serve what they called pizza, which was edible, but disapointing to an ex New Yorker.

Quiet Gulf beaches strand stores and tiki bars make this a fun day-trip from Tampa, Clearwater, or Sarasota.

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Some Tips to Finding Low Airfares Online 
Saturday, July 26, 2008, 01:32 PM - Domestic Travel
Book your flight early.
Discount fares often require advanced reservations of seven to twenty-one days in advance, depending on the fare. Booking thirty days in advance will help secure better international fares. To increase your chances of finding a great fare, book your flight as soon as you know your travel dates. Airlines sell only a limited number of seats at the lowest fares, and when those seats sell out, the price goes up!

Fly on a weekday.
Flights departing on weekdays usually offer the lowest fares, but be careful, fares are often higher on Monday and Friday than on other weekdays. Saturday flights occasionally have discount fares, but as a rule it's less expensive to fly on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Stay through Saturday.
Most low fares require that you stay over at least one Saturday night before your return flight, though some fares may only require you to stay a minimum of 3 or 4 days.

Consider nearby airports.
You may enjoy significant savings if you are willing to fly into nearby airports. For example, when I fly to San Francisco (SFO) I often fly into San Jose (SJC) and save a chunk of change.

Try surrounding dates.
To get the lowest roundtrip fare, the same fare must be available on both the departing and return flights you select. If the fare is sold out on either of these, the price you end up with will be much higher. If possible, consider flying on another date.

Check out package deals.
If booking late, check out last minute deals, like my "Deals and Steals" (sign up for my newsletter and I will send you monthly savings).

Book your trip late at night/ early in the morning.
Online booking engines often temporarily lock seats out when someone is in the process of booking a trip. Between 11:00 PM and 5:00 AM fewer people are booking flights so less of the good fares are temporarily tied up.

Book your trip with me!
My booking engine lets you take advantage of all of these tips. Visit:

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Wineries near the NC Coast 
Thursday, April 10, 2008, 05:02 AM - Domestic Travel
There are vineyards all over North Carolina. I see signs for them everywhere from the mountains to the coast, and often stop on longer drives to stretch my legs and find out about them. A trip to Asheville takes me past a dozen of them, a trip to Wilmington, half a dozen more. I decide to study a bit on North Carolina Vineyards and I am not surprised to discover that North Carolina boasts the 10th largest grape and wine production in the United States. The geography is amazing, the Smokey Mountains, the Piedmont, the Yadkin Valley, the Coastal Planes: each distinct North Carolina area offers a different variety of grapes, producing quite possibly one of the widest variety of wine styles in the United States.

Toward the coast, growers still produce muscadine grapes, a hardy staple in southeastern states. Yet, this is just one small part of grape growing and wine growing here. Vintners in the mountain and Piedmont region of North Carolina have planted traditional European grape varieties and French-American Hybrids, with the result being a surprising and ever evolving selection of wines for travelers and wine lovers.

On the way home from Myrtle beach I visited the Silver Coast Winery, about 15 miles inland from the Atlantic coast. Their wines have won several international competitions, and I particularly liked their oak chardonnay.

Before conducting a travel seminar in Wilmington, I found Lumina Winery. Lumina uses a lot of fruit in its wine-making, I brought home a couple of bottles of black raspberry merlot that Karen and I both love.

Speaking of Wilmington, Karen and I often stop at Duplin Winery, just off of Interstate 40. They are famous for their Hatteras Red, North Carolina's most well known wine.
Just around the corner from Duplin is Bannerman Vineyard and Winery, specializing in muscadine varieties from their on-site vineyard. My dad likes their White Oak semi-sweet white, a bit fruity for every day, in my opinion, but served with barbecued pork it makes a nice white table wine.

Some tips for visiting the wineries - Wear comfortable shoes. You'll do a lot of walking around a larger winery, and if you're like me, you may visit two or more in a day. With all that walking and wine tasting, be sure to drink plenty of water.

Be sure to bring a light coat or sweater. The cellars can be pretty cool as well. Karen usually needs a jacket.

Spit. It's the only way to taste a lot of wine and not find yourself intoxicated by noon, and don't drink and drive.

If you like the wine at a particular winery, buy it, but don't, expect a discount. Wineries charge retail prices. Also, Wine does not like hot trunks, so try to park in the shade and take your wine back to your hotel room or home as soon as possible.

I'll share our take on some of the Piedmont and Mountain wineries in my next entry. In the mean time, visit SE Winery Review for a take on all the wineries in NC, SC, FL, GA, and VA!

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A Day at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC  
Sunday, November 11, 2007, 07:22 PM - Domestic Travel
Interstate 40 is pretty this time of year, the trees are finally starting to pop with Autumn color - and even the Industrial Corridor, this stretch of road between Raleigh and Winston Salem, is beautiful when it is bathed in sunlight - as it is today. Karen and I often head west to Asheville in the Autumn. This year, 2007, Autumn has come rather late, and drought has concentrated more minerals, and thus more colors in the folliage.

Before long we are in the mountains headed for Biltmore - the largest home in America - built by George Washington Vanderbilt in 1890s with money he inherited from his father - a shipping and railroad tycoon. We thought the Piedmont was pretty, but the mountains are absolutely stunning. The frost and the lack of rain has enticed fully laden trees into a glorious display. We make the final leg of the trip, up the steep incline of Black Mountain, in awe.

The gate, the deliberately rustic three-mile approach road (designed by Frederick Law Olmsted), and the intricate stone bridges do not prepare us for our first view of the mansion: a massive French Renaissance-inspired châteaux which rises out of the natural landscape and commands it. At three stories tall and 175,000 square feet, it stands today as one of the most prominent remaining examples of the Gilded Age. In an attempt to replicate the working estates of Europe. Vanderbilt commissioned Richard Morris Hunt to design the house in the style of a Loire Valley Châteaux, the best known of these being Châteaux de Blois.

We park the car and approach the house on foot, passing through the formal gardens, also designed by Olmsted. We enter the house through the front, picking up a headset and a device which plays audio files for a self-directed audio tour of the house. All of the rooms are interesting, but some of our favorites were the dining room with its 64-seat banquet table, the pantry, the library, not to mention the bowling alley and the swimming pool in the basement.

At this point our legs are tired. The house is huge, and the floors are hard, and we haven’t seen much of the estate outside these walls. We decide it would be best to come back in the morning, because there is much to see. The estate today covers approximately 8,000 acres (32 km²) and is split in half by the French Broad River. Intending that the estate could be self-supporting, Vanderbilt set up scientific forestry programs, poultry farms, cattle farms, hog farms and a dairy. The estate included its own village (today Biltmore Village) and even a church. The Biltmore Estate is a fun educational way to spend a Saturday, and we will return in the morning to enjoy the stunning beauty of Vanderbilt's mountainous grounds.

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Patriots Day 9/11 - lest we forget 
Tuesday, September 11, 2007, 10:15 AM - Domestic Travel
Six Years Later
Torre DeVito

Blue and perfect as our naïveté,
That clear September day shimmered
With bright promise;

And sunlight made the concrete-
Brick-and-steel city
Shine like gold.

But Death flew out of that blue sky
On wings so sleek, it seemed
Like some strange dream.

And frozen and incredulous
We paused and stared, and
Shared this moment.

Until the next blow fell,
And then we knew the
World had changed.

Then came the gasps and screams
When some leaped into death
And did not wait to burn.

When the towers fell we breathed our
Dead, and watched with burning eyes,
Don’t you remember?

Six years ago, smoke marred the sky, and
Memories floated through the air like
Photographs, and sticky notes.

Now the site still bears the smell
Of unwholesomeness,
And death.

And they still find bones in manholes,
And in the lungs of policemen
And firefighters,

The blood is still red in their eyes, and
The eyes of our soldiers, but has it
Drained from our veins?

Six Septembers gone, have we forgotten
What the dirt remembers
In its stench?

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Merdeka Semicentenial: Malaysia’s Fiftieth Independence Day 
Saturday, September 1, 2007, 03:36 AM
I am sitting at a table in the restaurant in the lobby of my hotel. It is my first morning in Malaysia, and I have just discovered that it is the eve of their independence day*. The breakfast buffet is quite eclectic. Continental breakfasts don’t usually include fish, curry, fried rice, coconut rice, and more; but this one did. It is a reflection of Malaysia itself, a model of symbiotic diversity and peaceful coexistence, though it has not always been so**. I am not a big fan of fish for breakfast, so I stick with more traditional fare for a westerner, only with my juice do I venture toward the exotic.

It is late afternoon. I have just concluded some business at “Uptown 5” a set of offices in Petaling Jaya, or “PJ” as the locals call it, and my associate, a local, is dropping me off at the train station, with explicit instructions on where to go. The train I am talking about is the LRT (light rail transit). It is efficient and well maintained and I am impressed. Again I am struck by how culturally diverse this place is. Faces peer out from tudung (headscarves) and eyes peer out of Berkas. Yellow, black and white faces are everywhere – Indian, Chinese, Malay, and western styles abound. I smile at all whom I make eye contact with and my smile is always returned. Whenever I am lost I ask for help, and everyone is willing, and nearly everyone speaks English as well as two or three other languages.

I grasp the strap-handle on the train (there is only standing room) and gaze at the city through the window (it is an elevated train). Construction is everywhere; cranes and rising skyscrapers seem to be on every other block. This place is booming! Western companies are flocking here for the cheaper but fairly skilled workforce. Traffic is crazy, and the train is a shorter trip than my morning cab ride. The streets are filled with Protons and Peroduas (the two major Malaysian car manufacturers). To purchase a foreign car in Malaysia there is close to a three hundred percent tariff.

Here is a Vivid Traveler Tip: The traffic and driving styles of Kuala Lumpur (KL) and the surrounding area are a combination of the randomness of Atlanta GA, the aggressiveness of Los Angeles CA. and a sheer joy of creating virtual lanes that surpasses New York NY. Taxi drivers are absolute MANIACS in Malaysia, my dad did a brief stint as a New York cabbie back in the mid-seventies, and so I know whereof I speak. The only drivers more psychotic than the cab drivers in Malaysia are the motorcycles and scooter drivers. I’m surprised I haven’t seen an accident yet.

The train ride is a cinch, and I decide that I will wake up early tomorrow morning and catch the train From Asia Jaya where my hotel is to KLCC where the Petronas Towers are.

I am staying in the PJ Hilton, and I highly recommend it. My friend Mark, Who has stayed at the Royal Bintang in both KL and Damansara, is impressed with the Hilton, but feels that the location is a bit less exciting than being at The Curve (a famous neighborhood in Damansara).

After dark I decide to find the nearest elevated parking garage to see if I can view the fireworks. I ask a young Indian looking man for directions, and he likes the idea, and joins me along with an Australian businessman from the hotel, and three of his co-workers who are headscarf-adorned young women and are prone to giggles. We climb to the top level of a four-story open-air car park and watch firework displays over different parts of the city. The display is more than impressive, and I am reminded that a large portion of the population is descended from the inventors of gunpowder.

It is Merdeka morning, and the clock in my room is obviously incorrect. My plan was to be up early and on the way to KL, but I have overslept. I watch a portion of the parade on television while I get dressed.

I grab my camera and head down to the lobby for a quick breakfast. The thought of fish this early in the morning still turns my stomach. I leave the hotel the wrong way and go a few blocks out of the way on my rout to the train station. Luckily I am wearing a hat because the sun is hot and I can’t afford to be burned.

I am aboard the LRT, straining to catch my first glimpse of KL landmarks. Suddenly I see one of the Petronas Twin Towers peek out from behind a building! And there is the KL Tower! I am excited and filled with anticipation as the elevated train becomes a subway, and dips beneath the street level. The train is packed this morning with families with young children, and again the diversity is striking. As we pull into KLCC I fear I will not be able to get to the door, but many people are getting out, and there is an electric spirit of national pride and celebration in the air. Climbing to the street I see flags and banners everywhere.

I am struck by an odd realization. The Twin towers do not have the same presence as the Empire State Building (ESB) in New York. They do not tower over the surrounding buildings in quite the same way. In fact, visually these towers seem shorter to me than the ESB. Perhaps because they are blunter, and they do not have the illusion of foreshortening caused by the tapered profile of the ESB.

A Malay man offers to take my picture against the backdrop of the P. Towers. He seems friendly if not a bit overeager. In fact it occurs to me that he might be trying to snatch my camera, so I am fairly cautious. His motives I soon learn are no more nefarious than to recruit me into his multi-level marketing business, but his eagerness is a bit off-putting. Had the coffeehouse on the corner been open I might have listened to his spiel, but he is inviting me to his house, which I decline.

Vivid Traveler Tip – Trust your instincts and be careful, don’t put yourself in a position to be alone with someone you have just met. You don’t know the lay of the land, and it makes you an easy mark. It is easy to wander off of the beaten path when you don’t know where it is to begin with. Here there be dragons. The Buddhist monk wishing you peace and handing you beads wants a donation. Ladies, be mindful of your purses and travel in groups. Guys, you’re not that good looking, the pretty woman who is paying you too much attention is likely to be a prostitute, or worse, bait. Try to blend in. Carry a local language newspaper; don’t walk around looking up at the tall buildings. Cameras can be problematic: they scream “money” and “tourist” at the same time, and when one is peering through them, one is less aware of one’s surroundings.

I leave my new friend and head for the KL tower. It is quite a hike in the heat. I pass some great restaurants on the way, as well as a beautiful mosque and the KL Monorail. I am very hot now that I have reached the base of the tower. Now I am hiking up a long steep incline, and now climbing a set of stairs. Lots to do at the base of the tower, and there is a restaurant and observation deck at the top. After spending hours here. I am catching a cab home, happy and exhausted.

Happy 50th birthday Malaysia! Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!

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Raleigh to Kuala Lumpur by way of Chicago, the Artic Circle, and Hong Kong. 
Friday, August 31, 2007, 04:03 PM
I am sitting in the Raleigh Durham Airport, Terminal C, with the early morning sun streaming through the window over the recently completed parking garage, awaiting my flight to Chicago: The first leg of a twenty-four-hour journey to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The terminal is just starting to buzz with the activity of the day. The first line of the morning has formed at the bagel & coffee stand and it is a varied and motley bunch. The weather outside is oppressive. It is the end of one of the hottest Augusts on record, and the clothing of the travelers reflects this- aside from the occasional business suit, everyone is wearing shorts - cut-off, cargo, Bermuda, and tailored.
Image by The Great Circle Mapper

The flight is already boarding, and booking too late on a popular flight has netted me an economy class seat, and no likelihood of being bumped up to first class. At least my Travel Agency credentials have entitled me to board early, and I quickly stow my roll-aboard in the overhead compartment and slide my computer bag under the seat.

I hear a plaintative cry. I am looking around to see how close the baby is, but all I see iss a young woman holding a well-constructed bag. She is looking at the seat numbers above my head in a way that tells me she has the window seat beside me. As I slide out to allow her access, I hear the cry again, and realized the "baby" is in the bag, and it is of the four-legged, feline kind.

The make of the woman’s bag is "Sherpa", and it seems to be a perfect duffel-like pet carrier. As the woman opens the front of the bag to check on her charge, I catch a glimpse of a beautiful grey-striped cat with a lovely russet undertone to the fur around her muzzle.

Her name is "Bijou", I learn, and she is a veteran traveler. Bijou’s “Mom”, whose name I don’t ask, now closes the bag and stows it beneath the seat. Bijou lives up to her name and is an absolute gem for the entire trip*.

In what seemed like no time at all we are approaching Chicago. I have an excellent view of the Sears tower, and I take a mental snapshot of it to compare with the Petronas towers**. when I arrived in KL. Bijou mews a couple of times as we make our decent, perhaps because of the change in cabin pressure, and her owner zips open the bag once more to reassure her, and I catch my final glimpse of Bijou the traveling cat.

As I leave the plane I meet a very beautiful Asian couple. They look like a pair of movie stars, and what a coincidence, they apparently live within ten miles of me. They are headed to Vietnam by way of Hong Kong - my next connection as well. In fact, the three of us walk through the terminal together, and when we stop to check the bank of monitors for arrivals and departures, we realized we will be on the same flight.

The second leg of the trip is a fifteen-and-a-half hour flight. My new friends, the young dating couple that I met deplaning from the previous flight, sit many rows back from me.
Again, my last-minute booking has left me in coach with no chance of an upgrade, and what’s worse is that I am in a "B" seat, between the aisle seat and the window seat, meaning no shoulder room.

Fate rescues me - just as I am thinking: "Boy, is this going to be a long flight".

A young man who turns out to be the friend of the fellow in the "A" seat of my row asks me if I will trade, so I agree and end up in a far-more-comfortable aisle seat in the back of the plane.

I like the back of the plane because I am near the back two emergency doors and their unobstructed windows.

We are over Canada. The view from the emergency door windows is a sparse land with many small lakes. I am very surprised to discover that we are flying north, not west, to get to Hong Kong. We will be flying over the top of the world. I nap, and then look again, and see dark and light marbled ice with a fractured and refrozen surface, the lines look much like streets, and one could imagine a city. Again I nap, and then I check my windows again to find slabs of ice have lots of water showing through, and there are huge “lakes” devoid of ice as well, and even though it is high summer in the Arctic, it seems strange to me since we are within 330 miles of the pole, and brings home the specter of global warming. My “movie star” couple comes to the back of the plane and I share the view and my observations with them. I also pass them my business card, and we plan to get together again when we are all Stateside

I become engrossed in the second in-flight movie. It ends, and I return to the window. Now we are over Siberia, but clouds quickly obscure the view. I make friends with a retired Chicago police officer who sits one row up and to my left. He was shot in the line of duty, and was lucky to be alive, which may account for his evident joy-de-vivre. He teaches me the ropes of international passenger-hood, and his philosophy in life seems to be “Seek and ye shall find, Ask and ye shall receive, knock and it will be answered unto you.” He scores some extra sandwiches, I get extra coffee, and now we are back to the windows over the mountains, maybe above Mongolia.

The mountain shapes are strange, almost man made, with razor-edged ridges and horseshoe-shaped valleys that look like strip-mines. This gives way to a vast plane or plateau with farmland, that begins to be interrupted by ponds and lakes of a startling aquamarine and alkaline-looking lakes with milky-looking edges and bare shores. These become closer together and the land becomes more desolate. An hour has passed and I am still watching this landscape. There are roads, relatively frequently, and airports, and small settlements fairly spread apart. Now I am exhausted, so I return to my seat and attempt to sleep. I must have been successful because the next thing I know they are delivering the final food service of the flight.

Now we are making our approach to Hong Kong. The island is spread out beneath us, with its cloud-shrouded mountains, otherwise clear skies, and harbors bustling with ships and small craft. The landing is relatively smooth, and I say my goodbyes to flight attendants and the friends that I made on the trip.

Here is a big tip to travelers switching flights in Hong Kong. Arrivals occur on the lower level, and depart from the top level, and the gates are numbered identically on both floors. It can be confusing to see that your plane is departing from gate 23, and then pass an empty gate 23. If I didn’t know that I had to go through customs before going to my gate I would have been completely baffled. The only clues to the fact that there are two sets of gate is a subtle “arrival” on the columns near the gate, and lead-in signs that say departures that point forward, and could be construed to mean all along the current course – a misconception that is dispelled if one looks back to see the onward-leading signs on this side say “departures”.

The rest of the trip is a blur, and I reach my hotel in Petaling Jaya at 11:30 PM local time. Some twenty-eight-and-a-half hours after leaving my house in what seemed surreal-istically like the same long day.

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Toolin' Around East Hampton NY in a Mustang  
Saturday, June 30, 2007, 01:34 AM - Day Trips
I enjoy the perks of being a travel professional, I really do! About a month ago I flew up to New York to spend a couple days with my good friend Jim in East Hampton. He advised me to fly into McArthur Airport in Islip (ISP)(GREAT AIRPORT, by the way, so much smaller than LaGuardia or JFK, I may even fly there on my next trip to the Big Apple). Anyway, some of the perks for travel agents and other travel pros are discounts, and upgrades, Hertz gave me both. After all the taxes and fees, and for less than they had originally quoted for a little economy car that I would have had to practically wear, I got upgraded to one of those Ford Mustangs that Hertz offers - I think it was a Shelby GT500 5.4 liter V-8 engine and 500hp.

I was on the phone with Jim, getting directions as I climbed into the car: bright yellow, but in no way Lemony, what a pleasure! Even though one hand was on the phone, it was so ergonomic; all the controls were right where I would expect them. I hung up with Jim, and proceeded out the gate to get on the highway, content to let those 500 horses trot at a mere two miles above the posted limit.

I headed east down highway 27, passing a police officer, who had no problem seeing me coming. In fact he had an eager look of anticipation as I approached, and seemed truly disappointed to see me go, or more accurately, to see me go so slow.

Islip to East Hampton is about 60 miles, but the road was soon congested with traffic so the whole trip is about an hour and forty minutes.

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Day Trips From New York City: Cold Spring on-the-Hudson 
Tuesday, May 29, 2007, 04:01 AM - Day Trips
I'm on a train on Metro North's Hudson Line, about fifty miles north of Manhattan. The sunlight sparkles on the Hudson River as I gaze lazily out of the window, enjoying the lulling effect of the train. Across the river I catch my first glimpse of West Point, and just beyond that, the unmistakable profile of Storm King, and the winding road cut into its impressive slope. Storm King Mountain was a popular subject for the early artists of the Hudson River School, and it is one of the highest peaks in the area, at a mere 1,340 feet. The mountains along the Hudson, are mere hills when compared to the Rockies (with an average height of more than 10,000 feet), or even the Smokies (with an average height of more than 5,000 feet).

“Station Stop is Cold Spring, Cold Spring!” the conductor calls. I grab my day-pack, rise to my feet, and move down the aisle toward the door. I pause briefly to brace myself as the train lurches gently to a stop.
Stepping off the train one is immediately taken with the quaintness of the place. The streets preserve an air of 19th century home-townie goodness, which would fill me with nostalgia even if I hadn’t grown up here.

I turn toward the river and make the short walk to the foot of Main Street, passing the Hudson House, one of the largest inns on the Hudson River. I feel deeply connected to this particular place. As a teenager I used to “Scoop-the-Loop”, the local practice of cruising in one’s car slowly down Main Street, making the two block detour left over the bridge above the railroad tracks, to come to the spot where I now stand, for the sole purpose of circling the 1920’s bandstand. When I was 18 or 19, this was an activity that we would repeat several times on a Friday or Saturday night.

I spend the rest of the morning traversing about six blocks along Main Street. Antique shops have taken over, literally. The old Bijou Theater is now an antique shop, as is the old plumbing and hardware store. What was once Glick’s clothing store is now an antique mall. I don’t mind. For me this is a great way to kill time, all the fun of a museum with the chance of finding a treasure, and the remote chance of buying it for a steal.

I spend nearly an hour in “Other’s Oldies Antiques”, with its eclectic collection of plain old neat stuff, but after that I am antiqued out. For a change of pace I duck into Back In Ireland, which sells Irish stuff, and I buy a Celtic cross, but now I am famished.

There are plenty of places to eat in Cold Spring: The Cold Spring Depot Restaurant which was the original 1894 train station, for instance, or the Foundry Café. Being a man of simple tastes, I opted for a little slice of heaven from Cold Spring Pizza and Deli at 120 Main Street.

Just south of downtown Cold Spring are the ruins of the old West Point Foundry, the destination of my planned afternoon hike. The Foundry Café no doubt takes its name from the old foundry. The Foundry began operations in 1817 and continued through 1911. According to "The Hudson, from the Wilderness to the Sea" by Benson J. Lossing (1866), it was the "most extensive and complete of the iron works of the United States."
I follow a stony path along foundry stream to a young wood. The ground is spongy, but not damp, and there are several brick buildings - shells really – in various states of disrepair. Some are mere walls, and they have deteriorated since I was here last, some 30 years ago. Yet somehow the character, workmanship, and architecture are still discernable. I have no idea what any particular building is, but when I was a boy, one of them had a fantastic old copula that looked like a bell-tower, it has since been removed.

The sun is low in the sky as I make my way back along the gravel path paste the Audubon wildlife sanctuary. Looking south I have a great view of Dick’s Castle, a 100 year old 45,000-square-foot Moorish castle that has never been finished.

The path leads me right back to the train station, and I am just on time. I’ll be climbing out of Grand Central Station in less than an hour. All in all, it has been a very pleasant day, but a bit heavy on the walking.

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