Driving the Georgia Backroads

Murphy and I spent this Labor Day Weekend visiting my girlfriend and her German Shepherd in Athens, Georgia, which is about three-and-a-half hours from Lamar.  As such, I spent a solid seven or so hours on the road this weekend, not counting time we spent tooling around Athens.

For a three-day weekend, that’s not much driving, and I’ve driven longer distances.  Way back in the mists of graduate school, circa 2006 or 2007, I drove from Knoxville, Tennessee to Rock Hill, South Carolina (not far), then from Rock Hill to Richmond, Virginia and back just to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra with a friend.  She took the wheel only for the last hour of the drive back, and apparently as soon as I got into the passenger seat, I was out cold.

Granted, I was twenty-one or twenty-two at the time.  In the intervening fifteen years, my zest for driving all night to hear live symphonic holiday power metal has waned considerably.  Now I’m lucky if I can make it to 10:30 PM without falling asleep on the couch, my multiple after-school drives to Universal Studios notwithstanding.

But I digress.  While I may lack the stamina of my reckless youth, I do alternatively loathe and appreciate a long drive.

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Memorable Monday: Happy Labor Day [2021]!

Well, it’s another Labor Day here in the States, and I couldn’t be happier.  Last week was a slog, but a productive one—I managed to get caught up on all grading and even get a good bit of writing done, even though I was suffering from a gnarly head cold.  Hopefully by the time you read this I am on the mend.  I’ll have spent the weekend enjoying some rest and relaxation in Athens, Georgia, with my girlfriend and our dogs.

It being Labor Day, I’m going to observe the holiday in the spirit intended, and keep enjoying the rest.  That means some glorious reblogging today, looking back past Labor Day posts.

Labor Day has always been a pleasant holiday early in the academic year—the symbolic end of summer, and a chance to catch one’s breath before the mad dash to Thanksgiving.  It also seems to usher in the “spooky” season building up to Halloween.

As a child, we used to attend a massive Labor Day picnic my childhood church hosted every year at a campground in a rural portion of Aiken County.  I loved that picnic, especially the opportunity to explore the woods with a fried chicken leg in my hand.  It was a chance to play at being an adventurer, while still indulging in my beloved childhood obesity.

I’m not sure if there will be any picnicking today, but I can assure you I’ll be eating something decadent and unhealthy.  With that, here is “Memorable Monday IV: Happy Labor Day [2020]!“:

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SubscribeStar Saturday: The High Life at Universal Studios

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

Last weekend I embarked on my latest Universal Studios trip, and it was truly unlike any other park-going experience of the last year.  It was one of those brief moments where I glimpsed, however briefly, how the other half lives.

Thanks to the extreme generosity of my girlfriend’s mother (and the various discounts and perks she receives with her two-park Premier level Annual Pass to Universal Studios), we stayed at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, a hotel that starts at $300 a night, and that offers water taxi service to Universal City Walk.

We didn’t spend much time at the room—which, given the nature of it, was a bit like ordering a hamburger at a seafood restaurant—but that’s because our room keys also doubled as Express Passes for rides.  Right now, during the peak operating season, Express Passes go for north of $300 per person, per day.  That means one night at the hotel essentially paid for Express Passes for our entire party of four for the duration of our stay—one of the most compelling perks of shelling big money for the hotel (not to mention riding a boat into the parks is super fun and convenient, and hotel guests get early park admission to Universal Studios).

To add to the decadence—which, admittedly, was a bit of overkill—we had access to both nights of the June Orlando Informer meetup, which grants after-hour admission to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure parks, as well as unlimited food in the parks.

From an optimization standpoint, as my younger brother pointed out, it was not ideal.  If it was one of us footing the bill, and assuming we wanted certain perks, we’d go for either the hotel, with its built-in Express Pass perk, or the Orlando Informer event, which eliminates the need for Express Pass as attendance at the park is limited to meetup attendees.

From a standpoint of going all out, though, it was truly amazing.  I doubt I’ll ever have such a decadent and wide-open Universal Studios experience again, but I am grateful for the opportunity.  So for this edition of SubscribeStar Saturday, I’d like to dive into the eighteen-hour day my girlfriend and I put into the parks, followed by a far more reasonable twelve-hour day last Saturday.

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Back to Universal Studios Again; Summer Vacation Updates

I’m back in Orlando, Florida, for another trip to Universal Studios.  Tomorrow’s SubscribeStar Saturday will likely be late again, but Lazy Sunday should be good to go.  I’ll post in a bit more detail about our adventures down here later on.

Next week I’ll be making up last week’s SubscribeStar Saturday and tomorrow’s in great detail.  Apologies to subscribers for the delays.  Even though it’s now summer vacation, those final teacher workdays were doozies, with a flurry of end-of-the-year items to complete, not least of all accurate report card grades and comments.

It looks like this summer’s run of History of Conservative Thought will be cancelled, unfortunately, due to low enrollment (one student signed up—d’oh!).  It actually works out, though, as I’m hitting a whopping ten students for private music lessons over the summer.  If everyone continues into the next academic year, I’ll have twelve students in total during the school year—the highest ever.

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Spring Break Short Story Recommendations 2021, Part I: “Black Tancrède”

It’s another glorious Spring Break for yours portly, which means it’s time to whip out some classic tales of ghostly spookiness.  This week I’m working my way through Chilling Ghost Stories, edited by Stefan Dziemianowicz, published in March 2020.  It’s a collection that was clearly compiled for the bargain section at Barnes & Nobles, with a list price of just $10 for 471 pages of medium-sized print chills (I picked it up for $8 plus tax thanks to my handy Educator’s Discount card).  The stories were written from 1893 to 1929, with today’s selection, Henry S. Whitehead‘s “Black Tancrède,” being the latest.

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Routine Maintenance

Regular readers will know that I’m a schoolteacher, and as such I enjoy multiple, almost random days off, sprinkled generously throughout the academic year (not to mention the three best reasons to teach:  June, July, and August).  We enjoyed one such break this past weekend—a glorious, four-day weekend dubbed “Winter Break,” in honor (no doubt) of Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day, all rolled into one big excuse to stay home.

It was, by all accounts, a meteorologically dreary weekend, with rain that started sometime Friday and lasting through the duration, but it was nevertheless enjoyable.  I took in my first movie in the theaters in months, and managed to get a number of miscellaneous items completed (as I’ve always got some side hustles going, I was able to dedicate some time to them, though I still need to work on editing my collection of Inspector Gerard stories).

Besides seeing friends and loved ones, though, I try to use these days to take care of routine maintenance—on the house, on my cars, whatever the case might be.  Lately I’ve been borderline fanatical about organization, particularly keeping my desk at home tidy, various writing utensils and calendars at the ready when needed.

This weekend, though, I dedicated several hours to reviving my long lost love:  my busted up 2006 Dodge Caravan.

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Christmas Break Begins!

Well, here it is—the week of Christmas, and the beginning of my glorious, two-week Christmas break.  If this blog post feels a bit like I’m rubbing in readers’ faces the bloated excess of education’s vacation time, my apologies.  I will note, though, that if you spent hours everyday as a surrogate parent to other people’s children, you, too, would want two weeks off at Christmas.

Indeed, I would argue that more professions deserve more time off at Christmastime.  Naturally, I realize that many folks save up their hard-earned vacation days to do just that:  enjoy a week or so with their families by the yule log, sipping eggnog and hot cocoa in their festive Cosby sweaters.  What I’m advocating for, though, is a widespread cultural movement—maybe even to the point of declaring some federal holidays—in the days leading up to and/or immediately after Christmas.  It always blows my mind when people work a full day—even a measly half-day—on Christmas Eve.

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Universal Studios Trip No. 4

Against all odds, I recently took an unprecedented fourth trip to Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida this past weekend.  The occasion was visiting my girlfriend’s family, and to take advantage of an Orlando Informer meetup.

Apparently, Orlando Informer is a blog dedicated to the major theme parks in Orlando—Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, etc.—and various deals and special events in the parks.  In scrolling through their website on our trip, I found, for example, a post about a one-day-only Beetlejuice haunted house that Universal slapped together for Halloween (I was able to get to the other two, longer-running houses on my last trip).  For theme park enthusiasts, it seems like a great website.

The publication also organizes vacation packages, as well as twice annual “meetups,” special after-hour events that give guests extended park time and—and this one is huge—unlimited concessions.  We had passes for the 12 December 2020 meetup, which meant we could stay in the park until 1:30 AM.  Access with the passes began at 3 PM, so we used our Seasonal Passes to enjoy the park beforehand.

It truly made for an unforgettable—and long—park experience.  We hit Islands of Adventure around 9 AM Saturday morning, and did a long stretch there until we went to get our meetup passes (we did manage a late lunch at Mythos, a must-visit on any trip to Islands of Adventure).  As we were essentially in Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios for fifteen hours—essentially two park days—we managed to hit up almost everything we wanted to ride and see on Saturday (other than the ever-elusive Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, which is virtually impossible to get into via the Virtual Line feature).

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Thanksgiving Weekend

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It’s been a wonderful Thanksgiving Break for yours portly, full of two of the most important things in life:  family and food.  Indeed, there’s probably been too much of the latter.  The “portly” in this blog’s title is more than just a humorous pun, after all.

This weekend is a big deal for Americans.  It’s the gateway to Christmas, and it’s the first major of holiday of what Americans broadly call “the holiday season” (or “the Christmas season,” as we Christians prefer).  There’s a flurry of social and commercial activities this time of year, but it’s also a time for slowing down.  From Thanksgiving through New Years’, the entire country feels like after lunch on a Friday at a government bureau—no one is answering the phones, because everyone’s taken off for the weekend.

In the spirit of celebrating this slower, more reflective, more generous time of year, here is a rundown of my long Thanksgiving Weekend.

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