I couldn't believe how gorgeous it was when we headed out this morning. The sky was a searing blue, the clouds were gone, and the breeze felt great. It was just barely in the lower 80's. There couldn't have been a nicer day for a ride around Lauren's area, starting at a near-by Barnes and Noble. This was smaller than the other ones we'd explored, with no toys or electronic media area. Lauren didn't find anything she wanted. I looked at the Star Wars paperbacks, but I ultimately just grabbed a journal.
We had an early lunch at a rustic branch of a local coffee shop chain called Juice and Java. Lauren knows the owners, and she knows they make some of the best sandwiches in the Berkshires. We got there early enough for me to order off the breakfast menu. I had an egg wrap with peppers, cheese, and salsa and a Dasani Mixed Berry Sparkling Water. She had turkey avocado panini and a Dr. Pepper.
It was a glorious day for mini-golf. There's a course just outside the Berkshire Mall. Lauren grabbed a purple ball, I grabbed a red ball, and we played through all 18 holes. The course is small but wonderfully cheesy - Lauren said she played it as a kid. There's all kinds of typical traps that still work, like tiny houses with narrow openings that balls get stuck in (it happened to both of us) and fiberglass bears you have to navigate your ball around. There was a family - a mom, a dad, a pre-teen girl, and a grandma and grandpa - ahead of us. They were taking forever and finally let us skip ahead. The "19th hole" is a pinball-type game that allows you to either get points off your score or a free game. We each got three points off. Even with that, I still beat Lauren by 1 point in a very close game.
Since we were in the area, we swung over to the Berkshire Mall proper, first hitting their Target. This time, we both made scores. They didn't have the new Ever After High signatures (regular characters), but they did have most of the Epic Winter snow-themed dolls. I went with one of only two new characters introduced in that line, the limited edition Crystal Winter. Couldn't resist my favorite toasted coconut-covered marshmallows anymore. Lauren found Christmas presents for her Dad.
Unlike the other malls we've visited this week, the Berkshire Mall is largely dead. It's only half-full, mainly with mall mainstays like Bath and Body Works and Jay Street Video Store. I didn't get anything at the latter. Lauren picked up a Wii U game and a Sega Genesis port of several popular 80's arcade games she could play on her Retron (a machine that can play up to 5 older game systems in some newer versions).
The mall does have one new tenant - Toy Giant, a toy store that mixes in toys from smaller companies with a few selected items from larger corporations. It's a lot like Happy Hippo Toys in Haddonfield, or Toy Genius at the Cherry Hill Mall. I didn't find anything, but Lauren picked up an action figure of popular WWE wrestler "Uncle" Dean Ambrose for her dad.
Started out to Jiminy Peak around 2:30. Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort is mostly a ski lodge...but in the summer, it has a few unique rides. We skipped the swing and the trampoline in favor of our two favorites, the Mountain Coaster and the Alpine Super Slide. The really cool thing about these rides is you control how fast and slow they go via levers in the cars. You have more control over the speed of the slide car, but there's less around you. The slide is a fiberglass course, and it's longer and twistier. Lauren says she's gotten burns several times, and wipe outs have been known to happen.
You have to take a chair lift to get to the start of the slide, which is a nice ride in and of itself. The lifts pass over the slide, giving you a great view of people going down. At least two little kids waved at us as they whooshed away. (The girl with the Afro curls and sweet smile was adorable!) You get an amazing view of the mountainside and hiking trails right before you arrive at the top, too.
Our last chair lift ride of the day was marred by a family with a grade-school age girl who kept bouncing her legs up and down. Every time she bounced, so did the cable...and us with it. Instead of telling her to stop, her mother and her father and older sibling in the car ahead of us egged her on, and even joined in. Please, if the rules say "don't swing your legs on the lift," remember the people behind you and don't swing your legs on the lift...or encourage others to.
The Mountain Coaster is shorter and you can't control the speed as well, but it does have its virtues. It's a sturdy steel track that doesn't feel quite as wild as the slide; the car has a belt and shoulder harness. It can still go fast, though! While it does rattle, it mostly goes around. There's a few up and down hills, but no steep hills (except the first ascent), no huge drops, and no loops. Beats the heck out of the Comet for non-coaster people like Lauren and me.
(It actually reminds me a little of the Flitzer at Morey's Pier in Wildwood. That was one of the only roller coasters I'd ride on the boardwalk as a kid. In fact, it was my first coaster. Mom, who loves roller coasters, talked me onto it and rode with me. While you don't control the ride, the track is very similar, all turns, no dips, hills, or loops.)
(Oh, and incidentally, Lauren and I were both fine when we finished. No burns or wipe outs here today, or even pulled muscles.)
We went around on each ride five times before we finally decided it was time for dinner. Lauren drove us back down to the Berkshire Mall. This time, we hit their one and only sit-down restaurant, The Garden. The Garden is pretty much a smaller, slightly cheaper version of Applebee's, a neighborhood bar and grill. They have great sandwiches and pretty decent Mexcian, too. Lauren had a spinach and mushroom quesadilla. I had a Monte Cristo with raspberry jam and fries. My Monte Cristo was very filling, and very different from the open-faced sandwiches that Monte Cristos usually are in New Jersey. This had the same turkey, ham, and Swiss Cheese filling on French toast, but the sandwiches were fried before being sliced. Wow. They were so decadent and delicious, very yummy with the jam. They were also very thick, too much for me to finish. Lauren finished her quesadilla, though, possibly the first time she ate more than I did!
Full and tired from our rides, we just headed home after dinner. I went in the shower. Lauren watched the Toronto Blue Jays-Cleveland Indians game with her parents. (Cleveland won, BTW, according to Lauren.) When I got out, I had cookies, we both had water, and we went online.
Our last outing will be out and about in the area again to check out a couple of promising yard sales, then up through the wilds of Vermont to visit the Vermont Country Store.
Oh, and meet Crystal Winter! The daughter of the Snow Queen and King is happy with being in charge of the winter, partially because it allows her to play her favorite sport - ice hockey! She's the star of Epic Winter, the newest Ever After High special that has the kids searching for a rose to end eternal winter at the high school.