Monday, July 24, 2006

Lessons Learned While Traveling To The Orange County Fair

Saturday came in gloomy. But I had faith that the weather might improve while I drove first to upper Manhattan to fetch Annie and Ahmed and then to Middletown for the Orange County Fair.

Lesson #1 - There is no need to go over the Triboro Bridge when going to Annie and Ahmed's. Yup. I made the error of not knowing that the FDR and the Harlem River Parkway were the one and the same road. So, I unknowingly got onto the Triboro Bridge, paid the darn toll and looped around Rikers Island. Luckily, I easily made my way back on course and still made it to their apartment in an hour, and we were on the road.

Lesson #2 - If you are heading anywhere near New Jersey, go on a half-filled tank or less. This is because gas prices in Jersey are at least 10-20 cents cheaper a gallon. I thought I was being well-prepared and smart in making sure the tank was filled. Alas. I could have gotten cheaper gas.

Lesson #3 - In-car snacks are very important. We didn't want to eat too much before arriving at the fair, lest we fill up before getting our hands on all that greasy/fried/cheap/stomach-ache-inducing fair food. We were looking forward to funnel cakes (of which Ahmed didn't know), cotton candy, corn dogs (for me, the non-Muslim), popcorn and homemade rural goodies like pies and other baked delights. But it was a good thing we had something to snack on, as we eventually got punchy and snackish. And if we weren't entirely starving, we'd be able to pace ourselves better. We slowly made our way north and west, the light drizzle we first encountered getting steadily harder. But since we kept hitting pockets of non-rain, we thought we had a chance....leading us to,

Lesson #4 - Always check weather forecasts before doing an outdoors activity.
We arrived at the parking lot, paid $5 for parking (Lesson #5 - There will always be free parking somewhere else, you may have to walk a bit, but it's better than being an out-of-town rube.) and sat in the lot while the rain poured down on the car. Ahmed did work and Annie and I tried amusing ourselves by coming up with alternate plans. We checked Ahmed's Blackberry and found that the rain would just keep getting harder and harder (3pm - Hard Rain, 4pm - Hard Rain, 5pm Strong Storms, 6pm Strong Storms) and it seemed that the fates just didn't want us visiting a fair. So we cut our losses, made tentative plans to hit the fair the following weekend and made our way back towards home. But before we left the area, we drove around the fairgrounds and found that they were quite extensive. We saw the bleachers for the "Masters of the Chainsaw" show, all sorts of food tents, a ton of nausea-inducing rides and even an "Old-Time Photo" booth. The anticipation of seeing Ahmed dressed in Old West gear gave Annie and I a good case of the giggles. So we scouted it out and thought maybe we might try again next weekend.

We then made our way back - stopping at Nyack, which I remembered to be a quaint little town "nestled in the lower Hudson Valley." So we stopped, parked the car and decided to look into the cute stores and find somewhere to eat. We went into a few nice stores, they bought some nicely scented soaps and Annie treated me to an "Arabic Groove" cd, which boasted the best of contemporary African and Middle Eastern songs. It is actually quite excellent and I love it. We searched for a restaurant which had promise and narrowed it down to a Northern Italian, Japanese, Thai and even an Irish Pub that touted a nice selection of seafood. So we went with the Irish Pub on the basis that we could always get good sushi back in the city. We had a lovely dinner (rack of lamb for me!) and then went in search of the little place that the local map was quoted as saying "Voted the best desserts in the Lower-Hudson-Valley." Sounded promising to us. So off we went in the pouring rain, giggling and getting sopping wet until we came across Temptations. Annie opted for a flourless chocolate cake, Ahmed for the chocolate mousse cake and me for the Kentucky Derby pie (think a nuty chocolate chip cookie in pie form.) We also grabbed for some of the vintage candy; Charleston Chew (here then known as Chucky Chews) for Annie, (Lesson #6 - Chuckie Chews are the most amazing candy I've recently discovered. How come nobody told me about these things? I remember them being hard and tooth-dislodging, not fluffy pieces of vanilla-y heaven) and rock candy and Atomic Fireballs for Tom to bring him home a surprise (in addition to the mini-squirt gun and egg-laying chicken I nabbed at a toy store). It was a cute place, with incredibly helpful service. I'm always amazed that there are still younger adults who are happy to do their job. The only other place I've recently encountered this is at the local Ralph's Italian Ices, where I was waited upon by not one cheerful teen but two. I was astounded. So we then traveled home, and quickly grabbed the Tappan Zee Bridge (which Ahmed had never gone across before) where we found Lesson #7 - The Tappan Zee Bridge is cheaper than the George Washington Bridge. It's $6 to get back into NYC if you don't have EZ Pass ($5 if you have EZ Pass during rush hours, $4 during non-rush hours) - $4 to take the Tappan Zee. So we were delighted to have "bucked the system" so to speak.

We make our way to Blockbuster on Broadway and 103rd Street and grab "Freedomland" to watch while eating our desserts. It was an okay movie, thought-provoking enough and has lots of good acting to it. (I took out the book today from the library.) After the movie I work my way home and make it home in less than an hour. Off to bed I go, not having visited the fair, but far wiser than I was when I left in the morning.

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