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On our recent trip to North Carolina, we found ourselves staying in Black Mountain, NC. While Orbitz said it was 20 miles away from our primary destination, it was actually a 55 mile drive. Anyway, we stayed in Black Mountain. We were looking for some place to eat. I read good reviews of a Mexican place, but being in North Carolina, I wasn’t in the mood for Mexican food. Maybe if I were in California or Arizona or some place like that. But being in North Carolina, we wanted to try the local food. We thought BBQ would be good. We both love good BBQ and enjoy trying different places around the country. I found several BBQ places in Black Mountain listed on the internet. The larger place was called Phil’s Bar-B-Que Pit. I read online reviews for Phil’s and they were mixed. From some of the descriptions, it reminded me of a place in the Adirondacks called Tail O’ the Pup, which wasn’t that good.
There was another place close to our motel called State Street BBQ that had almost no online reviews. We decided to try it. We walked over from our motel. It was 7pm on a Friday night, and they closed at 7:30pm which I thought was kind of early. But most of the stores in Black Mountain were already closed. I only saw one person working there, but there might have been more in the back. She was very nice. I asked what she recommended and she said the beef brisket. So I got the beef brisket. My wife got the chicken. Plus we also got two sides. I got the potato salad and the baked beans. My wife got the greens. The food came quickly. They also included hushpuppies. The meat was not already covered in BBQ sauce, but there were several different types of BBQ sauce in squeeze bottles on the table. We tried them all and they were all delicious. The potato salad was great, and the baked beans were good. The meat was excellent with the different BBQ sauces. I wasn’t brave enough to try the greens as I don’t like most dark green type vegetables. The hushpuppies were good. I even ate my wife’s as she is not a fan of hushpuppies. The prices were reasonable. And they offer both Coke and Pepsi products which was nice. I would definitely eat here again if we ever get back to this area.
State Street BBQ is located at 400 E State St # C, Black Mountain, NC 28711. Their phone number is 828-664-1446.

I booked a white water rafting trip, and wanted to take pictures and possibly video. On previous raft trips, I bought those plastic encased disposable film cameras. They worked, but tended to take crappy pictures. And with the cost of the camera and developing, they really aren’t that cheap. And then if I wanted to post the pictures on Facebook or something, I would have to scan the prints. Digital is much better!
I actually have an underwater case for my older Nikon Coolpix camera, but it is kind of bulky, and maybe overkill for a raft trip. I started researching, and found Dicapac underwater camera cases. They are soft plastic cases that you slide to camera into. I had a case like this years ago, and it wasn’t designed very well. I used it on a river tubing trip in Belize. The lens had to push the plastic out, and it caused the lens on my camera to get jammed. But the Dicapac was designed much better. It has a rigid part for the lens to expand into, so the lens won’t get jammed. There are different models of the Dicapac bags and I did some googling to figure out which model I needed. I planned to use my Samsung camera as it was older and if it got damaged, I wouldn’t be heart broken. I found that the model I needed was the Dicapac WP-410. I went ahead and ordered one. It came quickly. The concept is simple. It’s like a thick vinyl zip-lock bag with a thing for the lens to extend in. I unscrewed the lens cover, and opened the zip-lock part of the bag. I slid the camera inside, and lined the lens up with the lens opening. I turned the camera on, and it extended the lens. I saw it was going to be a bit long for the bag’s lens appendage. But it came with a little spacer ring. I removed the camera from the bag, inserted and positioned the spacer ring, and reinserted the camera. Perfect! I reinstalled the lens cover. The camera was a little difficult to operate through the bag, but was mostly doable. The knob on the top of the Samsung to change modes was nearly impossible to turn though. It would be fine if I only wanted to take pictures, or only wanted to take video. I decided to try my Casio Exilim camera in the bag. I found this bag was also to recommended bag for that camera as well. It slid in much easier than the Samsung as it is a smaller camera. But the buttons on the Exilim would be mush easier to use. I sealed the ziplock part of the bag, rolled it up, and fastened the Velcro. I snapped some test shots. They turned out pretty good. There as a little bit of lens cover part of the bag visible in some of the test shots. I didn’t do a full blown water proof test as I wasn’t going to be using it under water this trip. Or at least I didn’t plan to.
I took my Exilim in the bag on the raft trip. One problem I had was the camera sliding around inside the bag. So each time I wanted to take a shot, I had to slide it into position to line of the lens with the bag’s lens appendage. If I didn’t get it quite lined up, and the lens was obstructed from coming out, I would get an error. I just needed to turn the camera off, and try again. I think if I have used the big Samsung camera, it wouldn’t have slid around so much inside the bag. Other than that, camera was easy to use. The shots mostly came out great. There were some water drops visible in some of the pictures where they had splashed onto the lens cover. This wouldn’t have been an issue if I was filming under water. The corners of some of the pictures show the edges of the lens cover. But overall I am very happy with the Dicapac bag! It is way nicer than the cheap disposable underwater cameras. And I can reuse it in the future. The more I use it, the more economical it will be over the disposable cameras. And the quality is was better!

Click here to see it at Amazon.com!!!

I have had the chance to use these guys twice now. They seem to have the cheapest rates. But I guess you get what you pay for.
The first time I used them was in Las Vegas. In Las Vegas, most rental car companies operate out of the rental car center. You catch a shuttle at the airport, and a few minutes later, you are at the rental car center. No problem. But with Fox Car Rental, you need to catch another shuttle from the rental car center, to the Fox rental car lot. While the shuttles to the rental car center are frequent, the shuttles to the Fox lot are not as frequent.
I had reserved an econom car. But they seemed to be out of these, and were giving people PT Cruisers. Pretty cool. My only complaint was that the PT Cruisers didn’t have cruise control. I picked the car up, and dropped it off, no problems.
My second experience with Fox Car Rental was in Seattle. Man of the rental car places in Seattle are right at the airport. But Fox Car Rental is off airport. We got there, and didn’t know how to get to the rental car place. I called Fox Car Rental and got a recording about going to the courtesy phones and calling extention 32 or something. But on the courtesy phones at the airport, you cant dial anything. I did manage to go through the menu on the phone, and contact Fox, and was told to wait  island 1 or 3. We got out there, and just missed a Fox shuttle. We had to wait 20 minutes or more for the shuttle come back. Getting the car was no problem. We got a Kia. Great car. It even had satellite radio installed.
The biggest issue came when we went to return the car. Out flight was a little after 6am. We planned to be at the airport at 4am, so we planned to drop the car off at about 3:30am. We arrived at the rental car place at 3:30am only to find them closed. WHAT? I called the local Fox Car Rental number and got a message saying thei hours were 4am-1am. WHAT? I had checked the Fox Car Rental website and didn’t see anything about hours. When I called the Fox  Car Rental 800 #, I didn’t hear anything about hours.  We waited until 4am, and they opened a few minuted after that. It still took time for them to get opened to check us out. The whole thing was kind of annoying. I will have to think before I choose to use these guys again.

We were Tupper Lake for the Tupper Lake Tinman. I had a friend who was staying out in Saranac Lake. We were going to meet up for dinner. The original plan was to eat at a place out in Lake Placid named Pasta La Vista. But when my wife and I arrived in Lake Placid, we found Pasta La Vista was out of business. Bummer. I loved the name. My buddy and his friend hadn’t arrived yet, so I called him. He discussed it with his friend, and it was decided we go to a place called Nicola’s. Fortunatly it was less than a block away. So my wife and I walked there. We went in and got a table.
Eric and his friend Bob showed up shortly.

My wife and I have already been looking through the menu. One thing we noticed was that they don’t do separate checks. Hmm… So my wife and I quickly checked how much cash we had. Only about $55 in cash on us. I would have liked to have had a steak, but couldn’t afford it. I was going to have pasta then. I couldn’t decide which one. I asked the waited for a recommendation. He recommended the Bolognese Pasta, so I ordered that. My wife ordered the We also ordered a Vongole which had clams and linguine. We also ordered a caesar salad to split. Oh, and I ordered a diet coke.

The caesar salad was excellent. But the Bolognese Pasta, was just okay. Kind of bland. My wife was not thrilled with the Vongole either. She said the clams were good, but the pasta was missign something. I tried her pasta and agreed. My coke was empty, and I asked for a refill. After a bit I asked again. After asking the third time, I finally got it. We also had to ask for the bill. When the bill came, we set about figuring out who owed how much. I foudn they charged me for the 2nd coke. Grumble.

So the service sucked. Other than the caesar salad, the food was not all that great, and was priced on the high side too. Pretty much, I did not like this restaurant and cannot recommend it at all.

Nicola’s is located at 211 Main St, Lake Placid, NY 12946. Their phone number is 518-523-5853. They have a website: http://www.nicolasandgrill211.com

My wife and I have eaten here a couple times. The first time was for dinner using a coupon from our Entertainment book. The second time was this last weekend for lunch to celebrate her graduation (she got her Masters degree).
The Plum Garden is a Japanese restaurant. They have both regular seating, and hibachi. Hibachi is where sit around the cooking surface, and the chef cooks right in front of you, usually providing a bit of entertainment, doing various tricks with the food and cooking utensils.
Both times we ate here, we did the hibachi thing. The quality of the hibachi cooking “show” depends on the experience of the chef you get. The first time we ate here, we had a great show. The second time, the chef wasn’t nearly as skilled. Things they would do included building a small volcano from onion rings, and having it shoot fire and smoke, and then having lava pouring out, spinning an egg on a spatula, tossing it in the air, and having it slit on the edge of the spatula, tossing balls of rice into the customer’s mouths, etc. It’s a lot of fun.
As for the quality of the food here. It’s excellent. I have had the hibachi steak both times, and my wife has had the shrimp. The shrimp was probably the best I have ever had on the first visit. I really considered the getting the shrimp on our second visit. But I was able to try my wife’s shrimp. It was still really good, but not as good as the first time. I guess it depends on the shrimp. Besides the main entrée, the meal also include Japanese onion soup, rice, and a garden salad with some sort of dressing that I tastes like it is made from carrot juice. It’s interesting. Maybe the difference in chefs is a lunch versus dinner thing. But during our lunch, we saw the chef at one of the other hibachi grills, and he was doing many of the tricks that our chef hadn’t done. So maybe it is just luck of the draw. Or maybe you can request a chef?
Anyway, the food is a great, and the service excellent. I will eat here again.
The Plum Garden is located at 3349 Monroe Ave, Rochester NY, 14618 (which is actually Pittsford). Their phone number is 585-381-8730.

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