Auld Lang Syne & adios 2011

29 Dec

So yeah, it’s the ubiquitous end-of-the-year blog post. I’d forego writing this entry, except I had an opportunity to see and do some things that I’ve always wanted this year:

World Junior Championships

Jack Campbell

I’ve dreamt of attending the U20 games for more than a decade now. So when Buffalo came up as the host city I scrambled to get tickets and a hotel room.

Unfortunately my stay was short and I didn’t get to see a medal game, but I did get to see the United States and Jack Campbell shutout Germany. Plus earlier in the day I got to see Slovakia play Switzerland – Nino Niederreiter had a pretty goal and I was excited to see Benjamin Conz play in his final year of eligibility.

@trashyleesuh and I also took a trip to Niagara Falls but neither of us have a passport so we couldn’t enter Canada. Overall it was a great experience. Buffalo has a nice downtown area and everyone was friendly. I hung out in the beer tent outside of HSBC, which I thought was an excellent arena with plenty of great seats and concessions. I also hung out in front of the TSN broadcast booth, but I never got to see Bob McKenzie.

Grand Canyon & Las Vegas

Grand Canyon

leesuh and I like to take annual vacations somewhere new and, at the time, we were big fans of gambling. So in the spring we flew to Las Vegas for a five-day, four-night stay at Treasure Island. leesuh didn’t have much luck on the slot machines but I finally got the nerve to play table games, namely blackjack, and won back most of the money I spent on machines and beer. I also did well on a few horse bets, even though I hardly knew how to bet on horses at the time.

Overall Vegas was cool, but we both felt old and out-of-place. I liked the dive bars and casinos off the strip and I caught up with a high school friend whom I haven’t seen in nearly two decades. But after the third day we were both burnt out. Everything in Vegas has a wonderful facade but everything there is also really shallow. The place is basically a huge McMansion in the desert, with slot machines and whores.

Hoover Dam

The bright spot of the vacation was a day-trip to the Grand Canyon. We spent a few hours at the South Rim and were both amazed. Yeah I know it’s cliche but holy shit, you gotta see the place to believe it. We decided that if we ever go back, we’ll spend much more time at the canyon and much less money on the Vegas strip.

We also got to see the Hoover Dam, which is anything but shallow.

Fallingwater & Kentuck Knob 

Kentuck Knob

After Vegas, we spent a weekend exploring Western Pennsylvania, where we live. We thought it was somewhat ironic that we were traveling west yet had never seen Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater or Kentuck Knob, which is pretty much right in our own back yard. The day we visited was very cold and brisk but we enjoyed Fallingwater and our tour guide was a real pleasure. The food at the little cafe was also quite pleasant, I’d probably go back just for another meal.

The real surprise however was the lesser known Kentuck Knob, originally commissioned by the Hagan family and now owned by Lord Palumbo. While the house itself is nice enough, the outdoors surrounding it have been transformed into a gallery of art objects by its current owner. I was pretty damn excited to see an actual piece of the Berlin Wall and there were many other great pieces too.

The Barnes Foundation 

Barnes Foundation

Early in 2011 I watched a documentary called “The Art of the Steal” about the closing of the original Barnes Foundation. If you haven’t seen it – or even if you have – I’ll spare you the synopsis. But it was one of the most moving documentaries I’ve ever seen and as soon as the credits rolled I began googling how to get tickets to the museum. Luckily I was able to get passes for the weekend of my birthday, one of the few remaining weekends open to the public. The museum was overwhelming, with paintings, metal objects and furniture displayed nearly floor to ceiling. It housed original work from a who’s who of influential painters and I was absolutely elated to see it before it closed.

We also scored rooms at the Wayne Hotel, which was historic and beautiful and set in a great little suburban section of Philadelphia. Plus we got to see leesuh’s brother and fiance before they moved to England to live and work.

Wild, Wonderful West Virginia 

Pipestem, WV

West Virginia is one of my favorite places on Earth. I simply love the state. I went to graduate school at West Virginia University in the late ’90s and would explore various areas on the weekends and breaks. It’s honestly one of the most beautiful places in the world, in my opinion. So I’ve made it an almost-annual tradition to go back each year and explore something new.

This year I got to see three new places: North Bend State Park (Cairo, WV), Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park (Parkersburg, WV) and Pipestem Resort State Park (Pipestem, WV). We also took side trips through the small towns of Thomas and Salem, and once again I was able to see the now defunct Pennsboro Speedway.

RIP Pennsboro Speedway


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