Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Corporate Robots

We no more want to give corporations the rights of persons than we do robots. Either one will doom democracy. Corporations don't (and shouldn't) act like people, they are purely selfish. That's why they need to be regulated. I would not loan money to a friend, hoping and arranging things so that they would not be able to pay, so that I could make more money. But that's exactly what the banks and financial institutions did to their customers.

Senator Graham’s ‘blame the victim’ mentality in this situation is a perfect underhand pitch to the financial industry. Not to mention the reporters, commentators, and clowns on financial ‘news’ channels like CNBC who latch on to this myth. These folks must surely awaken every day amazed that they still have a job. That would explain why they spend so much air-time scrambling for new ways to keep up the charade that they’re competent. Don't forget that these are the same people that held up Bernard Madoff and Sir Robert Allen Stanford as heroes of unregulated free-market capitalism.

President Obama pointed out:
"Americans don't choose to be victimized by mysterious fees, changing terms and pages and pages of fine print. And while innovation should be encouraged, risky schemes that threaten our entire economy should not," he said. "We can't afford to let the same phony arguments and bad habits of Washington kill financial reform and leave American consumers and our economy vulnerable to another meltdown."

The President gets it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Feature Evangelist vs. Product Evangelist

I've seen a lot of start up companies over the last few years that came out for the gate with really exciting, clever, and popular products only to see them stagnate. Lately I've given some thought to the cause of this phenomenon. One problem I've seen is when the product team focuses too hard on a specific feature request from a specific client. Typically, this is a big, well known, or VIP client with an internal 'friend' or evangelist for the start-up's product.

The scenario goes like this...
The Evangelist calls up the Product Manager and says that there's some growing traction for the product among senior management. A deal is likely, but that the start-up needs to make some changes to the feature set to make the product meet all of the features in the Request for Proposal that the potential customer has been sending out. The Product Manager, getting pressure from Sales and Marketing, is eager to help land this great account. One of the worst parts is that at some point, and probably unbeknown to the Product Manager, the sales person has promised a deal to the client that has all but precluded any profitability on the account. So now the start-up is in the situation of having to spend time and resources on a new feature for a product so that they can sell this product at a loss.

This happens more that you'd think, and it's too bad. The solution is not to ignore the customer (that comes later, if you're a Geoffrey Moore fan) so much as to be aware and on the look out of the customer or client that is too focused on a few features. Ask yourself if the client really is a strong supporter of your product, or are they simply using your product to advocate for a pet feature that does not represent an overall product improvement

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hollywood Park

I heard recently that the Inglewood City Council is likely to vote to close Hollywood Park, and replace the racetrack with a 'Multi-use, residential, retail complex'.

My advise is don't do it. Once you do this, you'll never get it back. This is the type of short-sighted, misinformed thinking that got this country into the economic mess it's in right now.

My prediction is that this city council will commission some big study at great expense that will undoubtedly come to the conclusion that if they do all this fancy re-building like other cities have done over the past decade, that they will see this giant gain in tax revenue, and earn the eternal gratitude (and votes) of the people.

Except... that won't happen. Instead, we'll look back on this in twenty years and say, "Gee. How sad it is that the city of Inglewood decided to destroy the things that were unique, and gave it an identity. Didn't they see that at the end of the day they were trading that uniqueness for a sameness that could not compete?" Trying to be more like Santa Monica, Westminster, or El Segundo is a losing game for Inglewood. The forum will be gone, Hollywood Park will be gone, and with them any opportunity to preserve the thing that makes towns and cities great: uniqueness.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Seligman and Ashfork, AZ

Photography Seligman AZI took some pictures as I drove through Ashfork. But nothing came out.

It was getting dark, and I’m a bit rushed since by this point I still haven’t figured out the whole plan. The other thing is that I’m still not sure what the goal is. Here in Arizona, I wish I were back in Erick, or Elk City. There’s this odd sense that I’ve been too antsy, too quick to move on that the next stretch of road and not spending enough time finding the interesting stuff in each place. Post trip research reveals that many of the buildings in Ashfork burned down in the 1970s.

In Seligman, I took some pictures of the Rusty Bolt and another building (I think) that sells souvenirs and groceries. I think that's the building pictured here.

Yikes! I forgot to get gas in William!

This damn-near ruins the whole thing. Here I am in the middle of the night, don’t know how far out of Seligman I am, and the gas light comes on. Since this is not my car, I have no idea how long I can drive without running out of gas. I’m going up and down some hills, so the light is on while I’m going up, off on the way down. I’m starting to wish that I’d done more paperwork and mileage checking. Nah, it’s sort of funny. Running out of gas would suck, but only because I’d feel so stupid. Fact is, I have clothes, cash, a phone, I’m on the interstate, and I’m not even very hungry. It could be a lot worse. I gotta figure you can go 50 miles once the light goes on solidly. That seems reasonable, and I figure it’s about 55 miles to Kingman. No towns that I know of between here and there, but there’s likely a truck stop. So, I could turn around at the next exit, but I don’t know how far I’ve come, and I’m can’t remember the last gas station - but it was some time ago.
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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Williams, AZ

Rod I stopped for dinner at Rod’s Steak House. Rod’s is where I went with the family back in 1975 or so. I only recently learned that this is where my Dad always stopped on his way across country. Back in 1975, when we were driving through Williams, we had dinner there. The thing that stuck in my mind was that Dad always teased us (or, maybe just me…) about Rod’s. I have a vague memory of this night. What I remember most, is that someone (probably me) spilled a drink, or threw up or something. Anyway, the dinner was ruined, and from then on, Rod’s Steak House was synonymous with kids ruining dinner-out. Remind me not to make fun of my kids for the dumb stuff they do and spoil their childhood memories.

William is a cool little town. This is the place to spend the night. Next time, I won’t make that mistake.
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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Recession Babies

My dad was a Depression Baby. While I was born on the tail-end of the Baby Boom, Dad was born in 1930 – right at the start of the Great Depression. People who were kids in the 30s developed a certain perspective on spending and wastefulness. My parents carried those perspectives with them their whole lives. A lot of the clues to my parent's upbringing could be found in small gestures, like re-using paper towels, saving corks, and huge jars of nuts and bolts. There was another thing too... my parents were reluctant to spend money to fix non-essential features that broke on things. Like the channel knob on the TV set, or the antenna on the radio. If the back hatch on my dad's minivan wouldn’t stay up; Dad would have never dreamed of taking the car to the dealer and paying to have it fixed. Dad would have gone out to his work shed, found a length of 2x4, cut it to length, and tossed it in the back of the car so it would be there when he needed it. That’s the type of thinking that I think we need to get back to.

This weekend I replaced a set of struts in the car. Both my family and my neighbors expressed more than a little surprise that I would attempt my own automotive maintenance, particularly on something as seemingly (to them) as difficult as that. For the most part, many of my friends and associates come from a culture that sees nothing wasteful in paying someone to change a set of wiper blades or pump their gas. I’m all for supporting the local economy through spending money, but I need to save money as well. The decision to build/fix vs. buy/hire was probably much easier for me since I’m among the recently laid off. But I would argue that everyone should start considering taking steps like this... now. If you’re unemployed and living off your savings, you need to save your cash wherever you can. If you’re working, you might want to think about spending a weekend or evening saving some cash and adding it to your emergency fund. Plus you might be learning a skill that could help you save more if you find yourself out of work. I'm going to track the $ money I save on the car repairs and report back...

Meanwhile, I think I'll go out to Dad's shed and find those old black and white TVs with the vise-grip knob turners and take them to the e-waste center

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Wigwam

Wigwam Motel in Holbrook The cop who pulled me over in Holbrook gave me directions to the Wigwam Motel. It seems that I’d past the turn off. I also took some shots of the deserted Sun n’ Sand across from the wigwam.

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Thursday, April 30, 2009


Gas Station on Route 66

I pulled into Holbrook just to see and photograph the Wigwam Motel. Just inside town, I saw this gas station and pulled over. What caught my eye are these pillars that seem to be painted to look like they were moved here from the nearby petrified forest. There was a man inside the fence who saw me stopping to take pictures of this abandoned gas station. I felt a bit like I was intruding since he kept looking my way with this angry scowl. As much as I wanted to go chat with him and find out the history of the place, I didn't get the sense that I was too welcome. I would love to hear the history of this place, and find pictures of the station at it's heyday. Since there's no signage it's hard to research from afar. Here's hoping to get some help from the web.

I'm getting the sense that there are some people on the road that feel they're being treated like animals in a zoo. Here I am, looking like a tourist with out of state plates, taking pictures of what looks like a failed business. So, I guess I can understand that.
Too much rubber-necking I guess because I was pulled over by a cop and warned… at least no budget-busting ticket for me. Hey, that might just be a first!

I should have thought to get the cop's picture.
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Monday, April 27, 2009

Save Jobs, fire Kudlow

Once again old Larry Kudlow is eager to sacrifice jobs for bond holders, even if it means everyone loses. Isn't it odd how Kudlow never complains when average people lose money on dumb investments and scam artists, but he can't stand to see the little guy get a break. Now he's screaming about the bond holders of GM getting a worse deal than the unions. Hey Larry, why don't you and your rich friends go build cars instead of sit around and complaining if the auto workers have it so good? Oh, maybe you don't want to soil those expensive pinstripes....

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


I didn’t see the standing on the corner park. I drove through town, saw a sign that directed me straight ahead, but I never saw it. I did see a sign that said ‘100% American Owned and Operated”.

What does that mean? There I am driving down Route 66 and I’ll come across a beat up motel with a sign that says ‘100% American Owned’. I don’t get it. Are there that many people who don’t want to stay at a motel if it’s owned by a foreigner that this makes good business sense? Is this just pure racism?

I would propose to the innkeeper that instead of competing with the ‘un-American’ hotel, why not join up and compete against the corporate chains that represent the real threat? ‘100% independent’ is a better way to get my business.

I didn’t take any pictures in Winslow.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Whiting Bros. Motel on Route 66

Motel sign and I40 on Route 66
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Grants, NM

Whiting Motel outside Grants NMI took some pictures of the Whiting Bros gas station outside of Grants. From the weed-filled parking lot you can see Interstate 40 pass by to the south. I’ve been thinking a lot about things that aren’t here anymore. What ever happened to Whiting Bros? For that matter, whatever happened to Stucky’s?
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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Gallup, New Mexico

El Rancho
Blue Spruce Lodge I stopped in Gallup and took some pictures of the Hotel El Rancho. Again, here’s one that must have a million photos floating around the Internet. What I’d like to see is a complete catalog of every building still standing along all alignments of Route 66. There are a few motels here, like the Blue Spruce Lodge that have historic signs, and no doubt have interesting histories. I’m not sure I’ve ever been to Gallup before, and I didn’t know what I’d find.

By now I’m regretting that I didn’t spend the time and $ for the tour at the Elk City Museum. I could pull over at every town, and by now I’ve discovered that I should take the business 40, at least, where I can. But, the pressures of getting back to LA and jumping into an increasingly dismal job market are pulling me on.
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Saturday, April 4, 2009


I rolled into town around dinner time, thinking that the lighting was just right for photos. I took some pictures at Del Rios and the Blue Swallow. Sadly, these were fuzzy and not well lit, but why worry? It’s not like the world needs yet another twilight photo of the Swallow. In fact, the neon was dark anyway.

Dinner/first quarter of Monday Night Football at the Pow Wow Motel/ Lizard Lounge. I'm starting to wonder about making this a family trip. It's just a few weeks before the election and it seems there's just a whole lotta one viewpoint around here. At least on the radio. I don't get how these markets in the middle of the square-state part of the US can support 2 or even 3 radio stations with the same host. For mile after mile, I'm forced to listen to this clown named Hannity rant about Obama. Just silliness, too and increasingly shrill. Glad I brought my iPod.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The First/Last Motel in Texas

The First/Last Motel in Texas
One of the more recognizable sites on Route 66, this sign reads either “First Motel in Texas” or “Last Motel in Texas”, depending on the direction of travel.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sunset on Glenrio

Dusk on Gas Station
No lighting, just the natural light of a beautiful sunset.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Abandoned Gas Station in Glenrio on Route 66
sun setting on white wallDiner in Glenrio

I captured this when the light was just right - the sun setting on the town.


Route 66 Dead End I knew I had to stop in Glenrio to take more pictures of abandoned buildings. There’s a ‘no services’ exit for Glenrio, and the signs for Route 66 (and back to the 40) are still there. It seems that there’s only one residence in Glenrio. In addition to a ‘sort-of-late-model’ ford subcompact in the driveway, there’s a beat up old jeep out in the weeds by the road. Here’s a town famous among travelers of Route 66 for the First/Last Motel in Texas and it’s sign that reads First or Last depending on which direction you’re traveling.
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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tomorrow's Past

Quantum physics aside, experience tells us that today's present is always tomorrow's past. It's simple to look around at things that aren't here anymore, shake your head, and say, 'How could they abandon that?' or 'How could they just let that deteriorate?'. The history is more complex than that which makes the value of preservation of historic buildings and artifacts more subtle than many preservationists would like to admit.

It seems that many things go through a period of 'old junk' status before they become collectible. Let's use my definition of collectible, where something becoumes collectible the moment that it's value exceeds that of it's newer, better, replacement. Think iPod. When the first Generation of iPod sells for more on eBay than the 2nd or 3rd generation, voila. My parents bought a 78 Pontiac station wagon to replace the beat up 68 Plymouth station wagon that had become the family 'beater'. By the mid 80's the Pontiac was the beater in my mind, and I was starting to think 'I wish we'd hung on to that Plymouth'.

It's the beater period where history is at risk. That's the point at which preservation can interfere and bring something back from the brink. But not everything. There's good in progress and looking forward. We can't save every beater, we wouldn't appreciate history like we do if we did.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


The Big Texan sign in Amarillo
The Big Texan. I just got out and snapped a quick photo. I toy with the idea of stopping to browse, but it’s not lunchtime, I’m not hungry, and the road is calling. This is a recurring theme for me on this trip. I want to stop, but I want to press on. There’s a growing sense that I don’t have the time to do it right, so I should just do a fly-by to get the lay of the land for a future visit. More on this later I’m sure as I’m becoming increasingly anxious to get back to California. I’m beginning to question the wisdom of my spontaneous road trip across half of the US.

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Monday, March 2, 2009


Old 66 Super Service Station Old ‘66’ Gas station. I followed the lead of numerous adventurers ahead of me and wrote my initials in the dust on the window.
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Friday, February 20, 2009

West Winds Motel

Old Mustang in West Winds Motel I just dig this picture. The Mustang looks like it's just sitting back there, waiting, snorting, pawing the ground. Mostly in shadow... with the business end peeking out with one watchful eye. Don't know what the chair means, I'll leave that to someone else to sort out.
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Downtown Erick I’d seen a picture of the closed and possibly abandoned West Winds Motel. Since the picture was interesting, with an old truck sitting in the weeds out front, I pulled off the 40 for a quick look. The town of Erick itself is a lot more picturesque than I’d imagined. Signs alert the traveler to the Roger Miller museum, and provide directions there. If I’d known then that the museum celebrated the birthplace of the dude who wrote the classic “King of the Road”, I’d have stopped there. I have to admit that by this time I’m still in a kind of funky fog about the trip, and my plans.

My goals at this point:Windmill and interesting artifacts in yard
  • Get back to LA by Tuesday (Wednesday at the latest)
  • See the country – whatever that means
  • Do some reconnaissance for a future ‘Route 66 Family Vacation’

(Ever since Pixar’s ‘Cars’ came out, there’s been some interest in the family to travel Route 66. The plan is really just a vague idea that it would be fun for everyone to travel across country and see the sights, and the history of Route 66. I’m still skeptical that a trip like this would actually come together. There’s interest, for sure. There’s geography, history, and even some entertaining things to do. The problem is that my kids can’t seem to spend more than 15 minutes in the car before the fighting starts, and within half an hour it is usually intolerable. Half the time, in fact, the fights begin in the driveway or during the packing and preparation stage.)

West Winds Motel and old delivery vanThe first thing I notice as I cruise down the road in Erick, is an old truck on the corner lot. To the right, past the truck is a yard full of cool old stuff. There’s a yellow plane and other artfully arranged junk in the yard of a house.

Barking dogs reminded me that there may be residents here who don’t want a road-tripping tourist lurking around taking photos.
West Winds Sign
The West Winds Motel is here. This is a great spot for taking pictures, even if the ‘keep out’ and ‘No trespassing’ signs are a bit threatening. This motor court style motel is a perfect example of those rapidly disappearing symbols of the Mother Road.
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Elk City

Elk City Route 66 Museum There’s another museum here. Although this one might even be better, I’m too antsy to risk it. This turns out to be a decision that I regret. I did buy a book at the museum, though: “Route 66” by Tim Steil. I plan to use this guidebook along the way to help me find interesting spots. At this point, I’m still not that interested in a fully guided tour, but it seems that there’s a lot I could miss if I don’t know what to look for. Still, I have no good idea of what I’m doing. If I keep on at this rate, I suspect I’ll make it back to LA in a couple of days, but what’s the purpose? What’s the goal? Do I really just want to drive down the highway and stop at a cheap hotel each night without much of a plan?
Sometimes after I get to know a place, I try to think back to the first time I visited. This is mostly something I notice after I’ve been back a few times. I remember walking down a street in Seattle and realizing that although I knew I was headed North, I’d walked down the same street years before, and not really known where I was, or which direction I was headed… same with London, Minneapolis, and even parts of Los Angeles. It’s a curious sensation, and each time I find myself trying to think back and capture the earlier, first, experience. I think it’s a deep desire to both go back and view someplace with fresh eyes, yet to have enough context to know what to look for. On this trip I’m experiencing a new place each day. But, I suspect I’ll be back and get to know the place better. Each morning I print out the next segment of the turn by turn directions on http://HistoricRoute66.com. The book adds some context for me so that the whole ‘plan’ is designed to provide some context for my fresh eyes. So when I return, I’ll be better prepared to recapture the experience.

Who says you can’t go home again… we’ll see.
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Friday, February 13, 2009

Clinton, OK

Clinton Route 66 MuseumThe Museum and Tour
Here I am at my first Route 66 museum. I have no idea what I’m doing here, but I figure that I got to spring for the $4 for the movie. The plan is starting to gel… maybe. After passing through the rooms of the tour, each has its own soundtrack, accessed by pressing a button on the wall, and getting the tune. Glenn Miller, Elvis, and of course, Get Your Kicks... The movie is okay and somewhat informative. Maybe it’s just that I’m eager to get back on the road and see the sights and sites, but the movie seems to bog down the last five minutes. Long, slow, takes of lost highways and bridges with weeds growing up through cracks in the pavement, pictures of rusty barriers and ‘dead-end’ signs. This is Route 66 today but I have to get out of here, The Mother Road is calling.
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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Monday, October 27th

Lucille's on Historic Route 66

This is where I first start to pick up Route 66. I’m flying down I40 at 75 MPH when I notice a gas station. I’ve done some quick browsing, and I’ve seen the film 'Cars', so this gas station sticks out. If you know Route 66, you know Lucille's. It’s right there, with a two lane road, directly in front of it. That must be Route 66, I think. I exit directly, and beat a hasty return down the two lane blacktop that rolls up and down, just north of the westbound lanes of I40. The exit is a few miles past the building.
Easy to see how the interstate could just bypass towns and businesses.
I’m somewhat reluctant to turn around myself. After all, the road lies west, and there’s a strong pull to push on, not to backtrack a single foot. After all, this is the open road and something better always lies ahead… For me, on this trip, this is the first hint of the draw of Mainstreet America.
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Downtown Ottawa, KS

Plaza Theater
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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Night 2 - Sheraton Suites - Country Club Plaza, Kansas City, MO

I met an interesting couple at the hotel bar while watching the game. Shawn (or Sean) and his girlfriend. They’re from Black River Falls, WI and are surprised that I’ve heard of it. I told them that I’d driven from Madison to Minneapolis on Friday night, and went though Black River Falls. We chatted as we caught the last half of the World Series game (Game 3). There are tons of restaurants in this part of town, mostly the over-priced, mid-tier chains like Cheese Cake Factory and Mccormick & Schmicks. Way too pricey for my budget (I’m looking at $ hotels, rather than $$$ hotels).
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

On the Road

Minnehaha ParkThe desk clerk gave me some directions to the nearest I35 on-ramp, and said I should just follow the detour signs from there. I stopped just across from the I94 on-ramp, and snapped some pictures of the Minneapolis skyline.

When I got to the freeway, there were no detour signs for the I35W, just signs that said it was closed and a sign that said to take Hiawatha to get to the Airport. Since I figured that was as good as I’d get, that’s what I did. I went to school here for a few years, so I had a rough idea how to get to the airport. I guess they figure that if you're going to be hanging around Minneapolis in the fall, you better know where you're going or else...

Traffic was hell and I got really lost. Plus, I had a really bad cramp in my left leg. That’s fine for an automatic, but since I’m driving a stick in traffic, I had to stretch before I crashed the car. I stopped at Minnehaha Falls Park to snap some pictures, and asked for directions. I stopped in Albert Lea for lunch and to catch some college football. No need to break out the camera here, nothing to see as far as I could tell. No offense Albert Lea

Minnehaha Park and River

The Plan

windmills for alternative energy source

Before I go too much further, I should post the original plan. I wrote this the morning of October 24th from my hotel room:

The Plan
Well, there is none, really, since this is a game-time decision… Before I leave, I’m going to have a quick look online and see what Starwood hotels I can use points for my journey. Looks like I have some choices in KC and Oklahoma City, or I can go through Denver. I’m a bit worried about the weather in Colorado. I’d seen lightning from the Denver airport on my earlier layover on the way out from LA. I figure I can get down to Oklahoma City and catch the 40 from there. That will give me the chance to do some side trips exploring The Mother Road. The budget is small. I have a few hundred dollars and some credit cards that I don’t want to use for meals. I’ll pay cash for meals, points for hotels, and credit for gas. Gas is $1.00 - $1.50 less here than it was in LA when I left!
The trick is to see if I can break the trip up into reasonable stretches. I want to drive 5-10 hours per day, including stops. I want to stop where I can stay for points (or cash and points), which means I’ll have to stay in larger cities. Since I don’t know these cities, I’ll have to check online and see where I’m going to stay each night. I’ll print up directions to each night’s hotel (or first choice at any rate) so that I have a destination. Worst case, I can get to one Starwood hotel and book a room and get directions for another. A quick check on the Starwood site proves that there are no Starwood hotels between Albuquerque and LA. In my mind, anyplace closer than Needles doesn’t count, since I can’t justify spending money or points on a place so close to home. Oh, and I'll travelog the whole thing.
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Monday, January 26, 2009

Minneapolis, MN

Night 1 - Westin Minneapolis

I went out for a steak with my buddy Bill, and then we went to a place called “Nye’s” for live music. The ‘live’ music at Nye’s consists of a piano bar with bad Karaoke. On the way back to the hotel, I decide to head back out west instead of driving back to Madison. I share this with Bill, who encourages me to make the drive.

When Bill drops me off at the hotel he casually mentions that I35W is closed until Monday. Since this is the main road out of town, I'm tempted to call the whole thing off, and head back to Madison. Nah, I figure I can ask for directions at the desk when I checkout.
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All content by E. Russell McGregor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.