NJ Balloon Festival

New Jersey has a Balloon Festival every summer. My company is one of the sponsors, and I’d spent the last couple months designing the tent and sampling program we had there, so this weekend I took my complimentary ticket to geek out over my work.

You have a few choices for parking, but I elected for the free option–parking at the local community college and taking the shuttle bus there. When the shuttle emerged from the trees into the field by the airport, I was surprised to find the Festival was a lot bigger than I expected. They not only had a large area cordoned off for the hot air balloons to launch and land, but also a giant stage for scheduled bands and singers (which made feel old, as I recognized none of them, and only knew a popular singer was next by the excited teeny-boppers jumping around), a multitude of food booths and beer tents, and even more festival tents split 50/50 between people selling stuff and companies (including mine) giving away free stuff in hopes of making you pay for it in the store later. Coke was there, as well as Progressive, Playstation, Oscar Meyer, Snapple, Honest Tea, Lays, Walgreens, Chobani, Planters, Monster, etc

I geeked over my company’s tent and spent the rest of the time wandering around. Alas, I did not stay for the actually balloon launch in the evening because it was, well, hot. 90F when its sunny and the blacktop is burning under your feet is exhausting, and I think I got a sunburn despite dutiful slathering of the sunscreen beforehand. But it was surprising more fun than I thought it would be, and I would go ahead next year if I got a ticket.

Home for the Fourth

I went home for the Fourth, packing up the melon for a ride on Ultimate Air Shuttle again (and they are running a BOGO special this summer, so I get a free flight in 2 months, score!). Mango was, to say the least, not a great fan of the experience, but to me it sure beat paying extra for parking, going through the terrible security lines, and having to get up 3 hours earlier than the actual flight time.

Its been about 6 months since I’ve been home, and I think that’s the limit of the kitty memory. Save for Mia. Mango had almost forgotten everything else, but he instantly recognized his little auntie and made a beeline for her furry face–much to Mia’s vocal dismay.

But I did do other stuff besides watch live kitty TV in the house. Every year our hometown shuts down the main road to put on a street fair. Most of it is what you expect from a Midwestern street fair, but its fun and there were some newcomers this year. Also, the fair food–where else are you going to get chips on a stick? Dad also did his awesomely yummy grilling–with an Asian spin, which means thin slices of beef and pork are marinated in soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil, oyster sauce, jam and other secret goodness that Dad makes new everytime. This year we also grilled corn and peaches, which took in the smokiness of the meat cooking at the same time to add an extra dimension of deliciousness.

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Roadtrip: End of the loop

Eventually you come back.  I returned in a driving rainstorm, just ahead of some flood warnings, and the weather proceeded to be much the same for the next one and a half days, as if underlining the realization I’ve had that this is probably just an extended stopover.  I’ve tried and living in New England doesn’t suit me, and I’ve seen so much of the U.S. that I could try instead.

In other words, still no exact idea of where to go next.  I don’t think roadtrips really solve your problem, but they do a pretty good job of clearing your head of other things.

But anyway, some stats on where I’ve been in the past month.  About 10,000 miles (my Honda Civic held up great, but ouch, paying for two tire alignments in three months hurts–those western roads and those New England potholes).  27 states that I at least drove through.  20 that I slept in.  I’m just Alaska short of the whole 50.  Budget was originally about $1000 per week, or $6000 for six weeks, and I came in under that at around $4500, although it’s probably fair to add on the $400 I spent on car maintenance afterwards.  And countless memories.

Done.