Or, rather, Albany. (“Albeenie” is what Will used to call it when he was too young to be able to pronounce it correctly. He is now fully capable of pronouncing it correctly, but doesn’t. I’m not sure if that’s deliberate on his part, or because we haven’t really corrected him because it’s pretty cute. I’m sorry to say that I think it’s the latter. Note to self: let him know before he, say, tries to run as a senator from New York.)

Anyway, here we are, getting on the Mass Pike — nope, make that, I-90, as we have just crossed the state line into NY, our 4th state of the day — so that we can get on the train in Albany. Why, you ask, would we take the train from Albany when we have a lovely train station all of our own in Boston? Well, because Amtrak decided to begin doing trackwork between Boston and Albany on July 9. We found this out by printing out our itinerary and noticing that the starting station had been changed to Albany. When Kelley called to say that a mistake had been made, they said, Why, no, no mistake. We changed that for you because of the trackwork. We’re going to bus you from South Station to Albany instead.

To which, of course, we said, no thanks. It’s, let’s just call it exciting, enough to take three kids, ourselves, and all of our crap to Albany in a car. Can you imagine us doing this on a bus? Can you imagine how many friends we’d make over the course of the three-hour trip? Yeah. Me too. Thus the drive to Albany on our own.

Well, actually, not quite on our own. Thanks to Wendy, of Wendy Cow House fame, (a.k.a. Kelley’s mom), we are able to drive the van to Albany and then have her drive it back to her house in the Berkshires and leave it there for the next several weeks. This will also mean that, on our return trip, we’ll be able to just get off the train in Albany rather than have to get off in Boston and then turn around and drive back to the Berkshires and upstate NY for the final week of the trip. Given that little bit of convenience, it’s kind of hard to be overly aggravated about the change of departure. However, it does remind me of the way the trains run in Italy. “Soppressato!” Or whatever the correct way of spelling it is. No matter how you spell it, though, it means the same thing: the trains run when the trains run. What are you going to do about it? Nothing. Exactly. So sit down, relax, and have a drink. (That sounds a lot better in Italian.)

Because of the travel time, today has been pretty low-key. We did manage to get out of Portland on time this morning. We even managed to get in a round of mini-golf at Pirate’s Cove in Old Orchard Beach, ME. For those of you familiar with the Pirate’s Cove on Cape Cod, it’s pretty much deja vu all over again, albeit a whole lot dinkier. I got the feeling that this was the first location they had and then they did it again, but better, on Cape Cod. The first few holes felt identical to the ones on the Cape, there’s even a lagoon in front. No pirate ship, though, and, thankfully, no “Fire at will!” (For those of you who don’t know, Will thought this was, “Fire at Will!” It took us the first four or five years of his existence to figure out why he resisted going there all the time.) It was also relegated to a back street in the town, which meant that there was no breeze to speak of. (To be honest, I’m getting a little tired of the feeling of sweat running down my back. I guess heading to, say, Arizona, isn’t the best idea, considering.) We had gotten there right at 9:15 a.m., though, so we were able to do most of it before it got too hot, and, happily, before the two camp vans showed up with 30 6-8 year olds. I would have liked to spend a little more time in Old Orchard Beach itself — I’d never really heard much about it; it has quite the kitsch-yet-cute air about it, what with its amusement park on the beach and various shore-type clam shacks, motels, etc. As it turns out, my parents spent some time there back in the day. It is just this moment occurring to me that they decided not to take us there, despite my mom saying that she kind of liked it. Hmmm. What gives, Mom? O.k., o.k. I suppose the fact that you took us to places like California and Europe makes up for it.

My one regret of the day was that we didn’t take the opportunity to dip our toes in the Atlantic, given that we very much expect to do that very thing in the Pacific in another couple of weeks. However, on our sunset cruise the other night (did I mention that? I think I did not; mea culpa), we did get far enough into Casco Bay that there was nothing between us and Portugal except the Atlantic Ocean. I think that that’s kind of cool. Check it out:

Portugal, six days ahead.

O.k. We’re coming up on the train station so I’d better sign off for now. I’m both anxious and excited for the evening ahead. It’s been a long time since I spent the night on a train — over thirty years, I guess — and I’ve never been in a roomette. My parents tell me that the service is much different than it used to be — I have romantic memories of porters and white-coat waiters. (Um, the white-coat waiter part might have been part of a dream. Or a movie. Like maybe Murder on the Orient Express. Let’s not be repeating that one!) We will soon see!

Today I write from the William K. Sanford Library in Colonie, NY. From the picture, you can see it’s of the same era of my hometown library, Waterford Public. And, in fact, when I walked in, I was immediately transported back to my days as a page. I even almost took one of the book trucks and started reshelving.

As with the Saratoga Public Library (let’s give you a link right here), this place is quite popular. When I pulled up the driveway at 8:55 a.m., there was already a line of people waiting at the door. Within two minutes of its official 9 a.m. opening time (i.e., the time it took for me to finish my coffee), a stream of cars began pouring into the parking lot. Yay, NY public libraries! Yay, NY public library lovers!

Upon walking in it was clear to see that one of the popular items was, unsurprisingly, the public Internet stations. All the spots were taken within 10 minutes of the library’s opening. Happily, I had my laptop with me; even more happily, the wireless access worked right away. (Speaking of which, I do have to say that the library’s website leaves a bit to be desired. After hunting through the not-so-pretty pages for ten minutes, I was unable to definitively determine whether or not there was wireless access. Which, by the way, was a lesson in ‘Ask Your Friendly Librarian.’ When I went up to the Information Desk at the Saratoga library to ask if all the NY public libraries had wireless access [no], and then asked how I could find out which ones did, she suggested the radical notion of picking up the phone and calling. Frighteningly, that hadn’t even occurred to me.)

The sad part is that, unlike at Saratoga, there doesn’t appear to be a large amount of places that you can easily set up and get power. The one place I was able to find is almost directly under the HVAC vent, the “H” — i.e., “heat” — being the prevalent letter of the day. Although I was a bit cold yesterday due to the AC on a 65 degree day, I much prefer that to my current feeling of sticky and clammy. Blech. I can go outside to feel that. The other sad part is that Colonie does not appear to throw the same amount of funding towards its library as does Saratoga. The seats are decidedly late 70s/early 80s, and the rest of the furniture is of similar provenance. Unlike the huge windows in Saratoga, this building was designed during the lovely moment in time where architects felt that if you were inside, you shouldn’t be thinking about being anywhere else. Therefore, all that is available are the tall, narrow windows that make me feel like I’m on the inside of a fort.

(Hey, let’s try that newfangled technology thing again! Make it work, Camera Phone.)

(Alas, Tim Gunn. I cannot. Although my phone insists the picture has been sent, my email does not acknowledge the same. If/when it comes through, I will post it here.)

Update: The picture just came through.

At your battle stations!

At your battle stations!

I also haven’t come across one of those Used Book rooms like at Saratoga and in tiny Richmond, MA, that I love so much. Man, I am wishing that I’d just bought up all those series books Lucy likes for 25 cents a pop. I may have to send Kelley back there when he’s in Saratoga again on Thursday morning. (I’m also chastising myself for not buying the copy of the Dick/Felix Francis book that literally looked like it had never been open. That whole psychological thing of bargain-shopping is interesting. In a Borders, a $5 book seems like a steal. In a library, where it’s the most expensive thing on the shelf, it feels like you’re being robbed. Damn it, Jennifer. Support your local library! I am so sending Kelley back to buy it.)

That said, it is wonderful to be reminded of the services that libraries can and do perform for their peeps. Need a place to hang out for the day and get some work done? You can find it at your local library.

During our travels this summer, we’ve had the opportunity to stay in several hotels, one more than once. Being a fan of hotel-staying, I would typically say this is a good thing. I have to say, though, I have not been overly pleased with this summer’s experiences. Not that any were particularly awful (at least so far — I still have 14 hours to go here in Saratoga), but none of them are hotels I’d go out of my way to recommend.

The first of the three — the Courtyard Marriott in Hyannis — was my favorite despite looking kind of strip motel-ish, what with it’s location next to the Cape Cod Mall. It had a refrigerator in the room, which was a bonus in my mind, a full breakfast menu in its quasi-restaurant, a fitness room, and a heated pool with a HUGE shallow area, which was perfect for the kids. The Dunkin’ Donuts across the street was an added bonus.

Maybe it was that my expectations were set fairly high, because the next hotel, Water’s Edge in Westport, CT, was a disappointment. Not that it was bad, although when we first arrived we did have to change rooms as the non-smoking signs had clearly been ignored by previous guests. Granted, we were there for K’s work, so we certainly didn’t rate the top level rooms; I just would have preferred a view beyond a tar roof and a parking lot. The room felt a little shabby, kind of like one of those Grande Dame places that hasn’t quite kept up with the times. The thing that really irritated me, though, was that there was nothing — nada, zilch, big fat zero — in the room that told you about the hotel. It’s a family resort, for heaven’s sake. Maybe some literature about what the resort consists of? A note about whether there’s a pool or not? (Which, as it turns out, there was, but you had to walk through the gift shop to get to it.) And so much for my hope to do some working out — I had no desire to go out of my way to find out whether the hotel had treadmills or not. It would also have been nice to know that there was a beach complete with a sand lot that had buckets and pails and construction ‘vehicles’ that Will would have liked to play with. As it was, we didn’t see this area until after dinner when we decided to take a walk down to the water.

Oh, and that was another thing — when we (me, my parents, Lucy and Will) appeared at the hostess station for dinner, no one happened to mention that there was a much more appropriate option than the fancy dinner deck just down the stairs. I suppose I should be happy that we didn’t get automatically downgraded just because we had kids with us. Still, I think it was fairly obvious that the fancy place wasn’t quite what we were looking for. A gracious wave of the hostess’s hand could have easily pointed the way to the more family-friendly option. Or, you know, a guide to the resort that would spell out the services like, say, ‘We’ve got two restaurant options. One’s good for kids and one is very specifically not.’

Keeping up with the trend of no information whatsoever, we found ourselves at the Saratoga Hilton several weeks later. The first night we stayed there was just joining K for an overnight as Lucy, Will and myself were stopping over on our way to visit Aitana. I’m there (here) again tonight, on our last leg of the summer’s journeys. The first time around, there was a similar lack of information as at Water’s Edge. A magazine about the surrounding area, but nothing about the hotel itself. I figured it’s a Hilton, right? It has to have room service. The only way I could tell that for sure, though, was to actually look at that card on the phone and dial the two number extension for room service. Without a menu, I limited it to hot chocolate for Lucy and a pot of coffee for myself. Both were a complete disappointment.

The hot chocolate, which cost us something like $8, was a measly cup that didn’t even come with whipped cream. For that kind of money, you’d think that they could at least do as well as the corner diner. My pot of coffee was even worse. Actually, I can’t really say that for sure since the pot itself was unopenable. I have no idea what the problem was, but I couldn’t for the life of me get the thing to turn. I suppose I could have sat there for the hour it would take to pour my coffee one drip at a time, but it just didn’t seem worth it. When K got back from his dinner at 11:30, he was finally able to crack the top open enough for me to get a cup’s worth. Although I didn’t want it at all by that time, I poured myself a cup. The total room service bill (with tab) had come to $16. I was going to at least have one of the cups.

(I’m not falling for that again tonight. When I went out for dinner, I got an extra bottle of Diet Pepsi just in case I get a hankering for something liquid later on.)

At least with tonight’s room, there’s a piece of paper that has the in-room menu. Someone wrote notes on it — you’d think that’s the kind of thing Housekeeping would pick up on — but it’s at least here. Housekeeping also seems to have missed that there aren’t enough towels. Since it’s only K and me here tonight, though, I think we can manage. Again, it just seems that with a Hilton, those kinds of things should be taken care of.

My other beefs? Still no info on the pool. Is it a top secret? Only for guests in the know? While I was looking for ice (another issue — went to both ends of the hall and only ended up with half an ice bucket full; one machine stopped working after the first spurt, the second machine didn’t work at all), I did happen to spy something very pool-like from the balcony by ice machine #2. Couldn’t tell you how to get to it, though.

With all of these, I think the biggest issue was that my expectations were high. A big family resort? A Hilton? Granted, the Marriott was more expensive than the other two. Still, as far as I’m concerned, these should be destination travel type places. Next time we go somewhere, I’m looking for the Marriott again. Why bother with the others?

I’m sitting here in the Saratoga Springs Public Library and have finally done all my Facebook checking, email scanning, and twittering. Although I do feel that I should be being a bit more productive, this is a vacation day after all. The fact that it is 12:15 and I haven’t accomplished anything beyond that is not a problem.

The question now, of course, is what to do next. Should I step into the cafe to have a bite to eat? Head over to the “Used Book Room” (which is actually two rooms) and spend some money on more paperbacks that I won’t have time to read? Attack the piles of papers in my backpack, some of which have literally been sitting there for a year (as I distinctly remember being in this very library last August with similarly productive intentions)? Continue to procrastinate and write more posts in the blog? Choices, choices, choices…

2:30 p.m.

Well, reader, I decided to have a snack. The nice thing about this particular library is that it has a cafe in it; and in the cafe, it still has access to the wifi. One granola bar and a string cheese later, I wandered around a bit, trying to find a suitable location to hang out for the rest of the day. The cafe was high on the list of possibilities, but it seemed a bit too social. The absolute last thing I want today is to have someone who I don’t know chatting me up; and since I seem to have a neon sign that hangs over me flashing ‘Get Your Mindless Conversation Here!’ I thought it better not to take the chance.

I found my spot in the Young Adult section (with an actual neon sign). I’m attempting to send a picture of it to myself right now.

Oh my gosh. It actually worked. Sure, it’s a blob of light, but still – is technology not the neatest thing? I’m blowing myself away. Must post it here:

The "Young Adults" sign at the Saratoga Springs public library.

The "Young Adults" sign at the Saratoga Springs public library.

O.k. That was fun. Moving on…

I have to say – I’d forgotten how much I love libraries. I know that’s odd coming from me, the person with the degree in Library and Information Science, but I think that in a way I’m much too close to libraries to think about them much. And when closer to home, it’s hard to be in one without running into someone I know. Even at the big BPL in Copley Square, I probably know at least half the librarians there. Forget the A/B branch libraries – those are a minefield.

Here in Saratoga, though, I am reminded about what a wonderful place a public library is. There are people of all shapes (darn, how I wish I hadn’t worn the shorts that are a bit snug), sizes (from the 18″ tall toddler, to the six+ foot man I saw earlier), ages, nationalities, etc. Why, here in the young adult section, I see two teenagers, one 30+-yr-old (o.k., 38-yr-old me), and four folks well into AARP territory. The coolest thing? The twenty-something fraternity boy type sitting on a bench at the end of the row and reading from his stack of hardcovers.

As you might have guessed, I found what I consider to be the perfect spot — hanging back in the corner, but on the first floor so that I hear all the activity around me. And maybe it’s the way they designed it (meaning that there isn’t a preponderance of seating), but it feels like this place is beyond hopping. Not just the ongoing chatter at the circulation desk, but every seat I see is taken. It’s only fifteen minutes away from the time when I can check into the hotel room, but I’m not sure I want to leave. It’s the perfect place to be around people and yet be impersonal.

The other thing, of course, is the books. As much as I adore our little local branch, there’s something about endless rows of books — all there for the taking — that is just wonderful. Since this isn’t my home state, I dare not even browse as it will be too tempting. That said, there’s still the Used Book room (full of barely read paperbacks on sale for $1 each). I might have to tear myself away from this seat yet.

As to other things, I decided to work on old email. Managed to get through April 15, 2006 in the Inbox; sadly discovered that I still go back to February 06 in my “Sent Items” folder. And what a February oh-six was. Geesh.

Well, three pages of “Sent Items” down, 487 to go.