I was up by 8 this morning. It was hazy and sunny but not nearly as hot as it's been in Oaklyn. I finished Lando Calarissian and the Mindharp of Sharu, and wrote in my journal. Had cereal and an apple for breakfast, eating in the living room to avoid waking up everyone else. Lauren was finally up by 9; we were out the door by 9:30.
The countryside in Western Massachusetts and Upstate New York is absolutely gorgeous. They're just so GREEN for mid-August. Southern New Jersey's barely had any rain. The grass looks more like it should be piled in a barn to feed cows. Up here, the grass is brilliant and soft and smells sweet. Colorful wildflowers, black-eyed susans and Queen Anne's Lace, dot the roadsides. We wound our way through lovely historic towns with whitewashed old churches and chrome-covered diners, and rugged farming villages dotted with ancient, peeling barns and wind-blown farm houses.
An exit off the highway took us directly to our first mall of the day. Crossgates Mall has a good-sized Best Buy. I didn't see anything I wanted, but Lauren had a real reason to be there. Her stereo speaker is old and keeps sputtering. I browsed the store while she bought a new one.
I've never seen a Best Buy that opens directly into a mall. In Camden County, big box stores and malls tend to end up in separate buildings. They seem to be more common as anchors up here. After Lauren stowed her new stereo in the trunk of her van, we headed into the main mall to explore.
Our first stop in the mall proper was Jay Street Video Games, a chain that sells vintage used games along with recent titles. Lauren didn't get anything here, but I found a book with detailed maps and tips for Lego Indiana Jones 2.
We both hit pay dirt at FYE. This one was not only pretty big for a mall store, but it looked like it had been recently opened or remodeled. The sign was orange letters in simple white circles, very different than the old blue logo. I took advantage of a buy two used DVDs, get one for a dollar sale to pick up three of the four Daniel Craig James Bond movies. (Spectre is still kind of pricey, even used.) Also found the only "official" Bond film I haven't seen at all, Roger Moore's second outing The Man With the Golden Gun, on sale for $4.99. (I saw bits and pieces of For Your Eyes Only on cable as a kid.) None of the films were expensive. I got all four for around $18. (Incidentally, Quantum of Solace was the dollar movie.) Lauren picked up wrestling t-shirts for her and her dad.
I didn't do well anywhere else. Lauren wanted to check out Bath and Body Works, but despite some tantalizing new fall scents, we didn't walk out with anything. Her local Macy's just closed a few months go. She's been trying to check out every one she can to find outfits for her job as the head teller in a Pittsfield bank. She bought two colorful blouses. I'm still mad about the pants I bought for work from the Moorestown Macy's in June barely lasting a month. She bought shirts for her and her parents at the Disney Store. I settled for admiring the Star Wars toys and Animator's Collection toddler dolls. Checked out Game Stop on the way out. Lauren found the Captain Toad's Treasure Tracker puzzle game.
It was showering when we made it out of the outdoor Best Buy entrance. We rushed to the other end of the parking lot as fast as we could. Good thing our next stop was less than a minute from the mall. Lauren's constantly been seeing ads on Albany-based TV stations for a local fast-food chain called Ted's Fish Fry. The prices seemed decent and I love fish, so we thought we'd give it a shot.
The Ted's we ate at was based in what clearly was once an older Wendy's, but left (intentionally?) unpainted and whitewashed on the outside to give it that fish shack look. Inside was more polished, with black and white checked floors and shiny black vinyl booths. We both had the Fish Fry meal. The "fish fry" turned out to be a very long, salty fried cod stick on a hot dog roll with fries and a cup of cole slaw. The fish was amazing, hot and flaky, and even better on the bun (once it fell apart enough to fit on the bun). The cole slaw was even better. I've never had such tasty fast-food cole slaw. It was crunchy and savory, with just enough mayo, and unlike the fish, not too salty. Even Lauren loved it, and she says she usually doesn't like mayo-based cole slaw because the mayo gets too soupy. Watched the US women play Japan in Olympic Indoor Volleyball as we ate. (The US eventually won.)
Headed a few minutes down the road to the Colonie Center. If it was odd to see a big box store as an anchor, seeing a grocery store anchor a mall was downright weird...and yet, we parked outside of a massive Whole Foods.
Our first stop was L.L Bean. I tried on a pair of black suede flats. They were comfortable, but way too big, and I couldn't find another pair closer to my size. Lauren looked at socks and sweaters, but didn't have much more luck.
Once again, we did far better at FYE. While not as new as the Crossgates store, it was even bigger. I settled on Zootopia and two Looney Tunes sets for Pepe Le Pew and Wile E Coyote and Road Runner for that buy two, get one for a dollar sale. (Wile E Coyote and Road Runner was the dollar title here.) Lauren bought wrestling sets.
The Colonie Barnes and Noble was the first time I ever saw that store as a mall anchor. It was even bigger than the massive freestanding store in Moorestown, with a good-sized CD/DVD area and kid's areas for toys and for books. I actually got lost in there. I couldn't find the Star Wars paperbacks, but I did pick up Indiana Jones and the Army of the Dead and found Red Velvet Cupcake Murder in hardback on the Bargain Priced shelves.
While I was book shopping, Lauren found a place for dinner. I've only seen Moe's Southwest Grill twice in Camden County, in Moorestown and Cherry Hill. It's a Mexican fast-food restaurant that lets you choose the fillings for your tortilla-based meals. I had a quesadilla with cheese, chicken, salsa, and fresh cilantro. Lauren had a layered fold-over burrito. The girls at the counter were a little rude, but the 70's and 80's music was great, and the food was worth it, hot and saucy.
Colonie has a Boscov's, one of the only ones in the area. I found a pair of jean capris for $10. (My old jean capris don't fit anymore.) Lauren bought more blouses for work. She found something unusual in with the board games in the toy area - a mini table-top pool table, It was only 20 bucks, too. I can't carry that home and have no one to play with, but Lauren thought it might be fun for her and her folks.
We browsed through the Jay Street and Game Stop next. Lauren found a Mario game; I came up with nothing. She bought more blouses at Macy's. I just used the bathroom. She wanted to look at Christopher & Banks, and I had no problem going there, either. They're one of the few boutique clothing stores who sell a good selection of plus sizes. Alas, neither of us found anything we needed.
Finished the night at Christmas Tree Shops. She bought light-up, personalized teddy bear keychains for herself and her parents. I found more cheap tea, this time the now-discontinued Bigalow's Girl Scouts Caramel and Coconut.
After hiking through two large malls for nearly 7 hours, we were both sore and dead tired. We finally headed home around 7. Thankfully, by this point, the clouds and the traffic was long-gone. Lauren got a little turned-around at first, but that had its good points. We went right by a Rite Aid...just as Mr. Miller texted his daughter to pick up something for him there. (Lauren didn't walk out with it - she said the store's stock was too close to expiration.) After we left there, we got back on the highway and went straight home the way we came, through darkened historic towns and hazy moonlit mountain vistas.
Mr. and Mrs. Miller were watching WWE Smackdown! when we got in. We showed them our finds, then joined them for the show briefly. Mrs. Miller cut slices of raspberry strudel from their local grocery store for us.
We're online now, chatting and watching YouTube videos. The weather's looking much better tomorrow. It's finally time to hit Six Flags Great Escape in Lake George, New York.