Random Cool Stuff – May Edition

English: Food dehydrator Français : Déshydrateur
Slightly nicer then mine, but the same brand. Get one ASAP! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can’t believe May is almost over already. But the good part of a month flying by is getting to share a some random cool stuff I gleaned this month – from the Internet, from books, wherever.

Up first, let’s talk about some interesting things I’ve started to do with stuff out of my foods dehydrator. My two favorite dehydrated foods are jerky and apples. But check this out – there are a few things you can do with jerky and apples next time you go camping -- beyond just eating them as-is.

First, the jerky. If you use those dehydrated meal packs, you’ll notice that they’re generally low on protein. Bump that protein factor up by tossing some jerky in there – but be sure to add a bit of extra hot water. If you make a nice jerky in a good marinade, this will also make your camp food far tastier. Speaking of dehydrated camp meals, I’ve heard that some people make complete dehydrated meals at home: If you have some advice, please pass it on – I’d like to take a shot at this, and I trust any advice from a reader more than a random Internet search.

The Swedish FireKnife is a cool piece of gear – it could be a game changer in “Naked and Afraid!”

The same goes for the apples. If you’re making oatmeal, toss some apples in there for extra flavor. Delicious!

Now I’m about to get personal. Ever since I went to the Aboriginal Living Skills School, people have been wanting me to try getting on the TV show Naked and Afraid (this includes many of my relatives, and I am more than slightly disturbed by how many want me to run around naked on TV).

Anyway, I ran across a reference to some of the gear choices Naked and Afraid contestants picked at the start of the show. It got me wondering what I’d pick. Only one of them picked a piece of gear that I use: the Swedish Firesteel. This is a solid piece of gear that I’ve used to start many fires – even at home for my barbecue grill: Like anything, using a flint is a skill, and it’s one you should practice even when you don’t need to. I’ve also started more hand drill fires at home than I have camping, no contest.

You're seeing this ridiculous dog in a bike basket because this is a "random stuff" post. This ludicrous dog was in Hanoi.
You’re seeing this ridiculous dog in a bike basket because this is a “random stuff” post. This ludicrous dog was in Hanoi.

Back to the Firesteel: I think a smart Naked and Afraid duo would be smart to make it one of their choices, with the other person using a small bushcraft knife. I’d suggest resisting the urge to go with a machete, big quasi-survival knife or hatchet. Not even a bottle – there are ways to make water-carrying vessel, one that can endure heat to boil water for purifying; iif you could get the Swedish Fireknife, you’d get knife and flint in one and be able to let your partner grab a water vessel. That’s a pretty kick-ass little knife with a sharp Scandinavian-ground edge. The flat spine and thin-but-strong blade make it great for batoning, which negates the need for an axe. It’s also stupid-cheap, yet very decent, un-fancy quality for frugal folks.

Get one of these. Seriously. (Photo from thehikingguys.com)

Third up – I’ve absolutely fallen in love with my 32-ounce BPA-free REI bottle. It holds plenty of water, and a pair of them are with me on every hike. I had only one problem with them, and that was the wide mouth. One false move, and I’m wearing more water than I’m drinking.

I discovered the Guyot Designs Splashguard, a cool silicone insert that turns many types of wide-mouth bottles into sippy-cups for outdoorsy adults.

But there’s another really cool thing the Splashguard can do: Have you ever had a pair of bottles, one with water that’s disinfected and ready to drink, and one that you just treated with a few drops of iodine -- and you can’t remember which is which? Your Splashguard can be the key. The bottle with the Splashguard is ready to go, the other isn’t. Of course, you can also have different-colored bottles. The Splashguard is still a pretty solid way to keep from drinking untreated water.

Let’s take this back to modern times. You know how much you hate the middle seat while flying? Well, one company has a solution to that problem. How likely are you to see this on an airplane anytime soon? I vote "no chance in hell."

There are so many great ideas out there – like scramble crosswalks and movies that aren’t sequels/prequels/reboots/remakes – that never come into use. Don’t ask me why. It’s just the way of the world. And airlines, especially those based in the United States, take a special pleasure in ignoring any way to make flying better.

That’s all I have for you today. See ya next month!

The Great Camping Lantern Review of 2015

camping lantern
A camping lantern trio ready for testing.

A few months ago, my neighborhood had a blackout. And true to Murphy’s Law, I had a much harder time than necessary finding any of my flashlights or candles. It took some irritating groping in the dark – and I don’t mean the fun kind – before I found a flashlight.

This got me thinking that I need to have some light sources around in conspicuous places. I headed to a few outdoor stores to pick up compact camping lantern sampler. I wanted to see which ones would be good for stashing around the house, stuffing in a backpack/car or even doing both. I wound up with a UCO (pronounced "you-coe," which I get wrong in the video below) Clarus lantern/flashlight combo, the tiny little NEBO Tools LUMO and the MPOWERD Luci Solar Light. Each one has multiple light levels and easy ways to attach a carabiner so you can dangle it from a handy spot inside your house or the roof of your tent.

camping lantern
The UCO Clarus camping lantern/flashlight combi impresses me – a lot.

Before you watch the video, be aware that I could see better than the GoPro camera could. So the tent appears brighter in person than in the video. ANOTHER NOTE ON THE VIDEO: ANY AND ALL LENS FLARE IS ACCIDENTAL – I AM NOT CHANNELING JAR-JAR ABRAMS!

Let’s take a quick run through each camping lantern. The Clarus has a neat metal loop in the handle. Clip it to a carabiner and hang it from the rough of your tent, give it a little downward tug and it expands into a mini camping lantern. Push it back in, and it focuses the beam flashlight style. For $19.99, it’s hard to argue with the value of having one of these. 150 lumens, 3 AAA batteries.

camping lantern
The super-cool and compact LUMO camping lantern.

The tiny little LUMO is quite a deal. For $5.99, why not have one of these in every room of the house, in your car an in your backpack? It’s not the sort of gizmo you’ll regret buying. It’s the least-bright camping lantern of the three, but it’s also unbelievably small and inexpensive and comes with its own little carabiner. It’s only 25 lumens, but that’s better than zero lumens while fumbling in the dark for a 300-lumen flashlight you can’t find.

As you can tell, I really like the Clarus and the LUMO. But it’s the Luci that blows my mind. And why not? I mean, it’s an inflatable, waterproof, solar-powered camping lantern. Attach it to your backpack to charge, which it will in about 8 hours. It’ll then give you about 12 hours of light, or you can let it sit somewhere and hold its charge for a year until you need it.

camping lantern
The MPOWERD Luci solar-powered camping lantern boggles my mind with awesomeness.

MPOWERD is also positioning Luci as a serious helping hand to bring lighting to people in areas that don’t have reliable – or any – access to electricity. What I think of as a camping lantern is a primary lighting source to some people around the world. I’d say get a bunch for yourself and as gifts for your outdoorsy friends, and maybe throw a few bucks at MPOWERD to put a Luci in the hands of a family in need of some light. $10 – $25, lumens not listed. Or I missed it.

Honestly, each camping lantern in this post deserves a place in your gear stash. Any of them will also make a great gift for anyone, even those who think “If the outdoors are so great, why did we invent the indoors?”.

Destinations for Adventurous Eaters

One of my favorite things to do when I travel is to eat something completely off-the-wall. Some foreign destinations make that easy thanks to immigrant populations that influence local cuisine, unusual flora and fauna and historical necessity. Here are some great places in Australia, New Zealand and Iceland where I’ve used my tastebuds as crash-test dummies – and I know other adventurous eaters will have fun at any one of these.

Australia for Adventurous Eaters

Being close to Asia gives Australia some wonderfully spicy treats. Though you can get many Asian flavors in any major U.S. city, it’s still worth diving into any Indian, Thai or Indonesian restaurants you can find.

One of the many delights waiting for adventurous eaters in Australia is the black sapote, aka chocolate pudding fruit.

But it’s Australia’s abundant wildlife, one odd import and its fruit that will interest adventurous eaters. It’s not at all unusual to see salt-water crocodile, emu and kangaroo on the menu. At the Australian Heritage Hotel in Sydney, I found all three as pizza toppings. Less common is camel, which I found turned into schnitzel at the Wharf Precinct in the Northern Territory outpost of Darwin.

Let’s say you’re a vegetarian. There’s still plenty for you in Australia. See, the country’s really not all desert. The province of Queensland is incredibly lush. There, you’ll find the Cape Trib Exotic Fruitfarm a few hours north of Cairns. The Cape Trib Exotic Fruit Farm hosts tastings, where you’ll learn about and sample a pretty overwhelming array of unusual fruits – takes notes and photos if you want to remember them. On my tasting list was black sapote, dragonfruit, jackfruit, sapodilla star fruit, mangosteen and soursop. And I’m leaving out many.

Can Adventurous Eaters Bear Finland?

The food in Finland is pretty agreeable stuff that won’t challenge adventurous eaters. You’ll see more game meat on the menu than in the United States, and there are kitschy places offering “viking” style foods. As you might imagine, good seafood isn’t hard to find.

There’s one place that might interest adventurous eaters, though: On the island of Suomenlinna, I found a place called Panimo serving bear sausage. They also had some decent craft beer there – I remember the IPA being particularly good.

Exotic Options in New Zealand

Travel writers have slammed the culinary efforts in New Zealand. That amazes me. It’s home to some great local lamb and outstanding seafood. And it’s certainly a great place to find unusual flavors. Like Australia, Asian immigrants have brought the spice. But even aside from that, adventurous eaters will find plenty of fun.

adventurous eaters
Look for Aggys Shack a few steps away from Lake Wakatipu.

During a bus ride from Nelson to Franz Josef Glacier, our driver told us all about the possum pie at the Sandfly Cafe in Pukekura. Despite his assurances that it’s “easy to eat,” I was the only one to get a personal-size pie stuffed with stringy bits of possum. It’s not great nor revolting – but it’s fun to say you’ve eaten possum.

On the South Island, whitebait is another local favorite – and possibly a test of a traveler’s willingness to try anything. They’re recently hatched freshwater fish, usually mixed in with egg. Whitebait is fairly pricey, probably because it’s fairly labor-intensive to catch them.

Finally, Queenstown is a great stop to try unusual bites. There, I discovered that Aggys Shack, Fish & Chips is the only place I’ve ever seen where you can order a whole smoked eel. Skip the fish & chips (even thought they’re also tasty) and pick the eel and a nice order of fresh green-lipped mussels. Sitting on the shore of Lake Wakatipu while eating mussels and eel from Aggys Shack is a great eating experience.

Iceland for Wild Eaters

Talk about a harsh, barren place: According to Wikipedia’s statistics, less than one percent of Iceland’s land area is arable. The rest is lava flows and glaciers. That makes for some gastronomic ingenuity.

Take hakarl (pronounced “howker” – and be sure to check out the link so you can see video of me eating hakarl, and find out what I did with the leftovers). Early settlers in Iceland were so pressed for food that they had to discover ways to make the toxic flesh of the Greenland shark fit for eating.

Here’s what they did – gut the shark, bury it for a few months, exhume it, cut it into strips, let it hang a few months more, and enjoy. The result is rubbery and smells like cat urine. This is an ultimate “been there, eaten that” food for adventurous eaters.

adventurous eaters
Some Greenland shark putrefying Icelandic style.

Then there’s the excellent smoked trout available just about everywhere in Iceland. What makes it unusual? Well, it’s smoked over fires produced by burning dried lamb dung.

There are also certain places where Icelanders eat pickled rams testicles and entire sheep heads with the eyes still planted in the skull.

Larva and More in South Korea

People who are not adventurous eaters are really frightened of kimchi, the famous, spicy fermented cabbage that seems to be South Korea’s best-known food. I even know people who can’t stomach bi bim bap, that delicious bend of marinated meat, vegetables and rice.

I’d hate to see what happened if they ever tried boiled silkworm larva. This little delicacy is available from sidewalk vendors all over Seoul. I bought a cup to share with my very lucky wife. The taste was a combination of leather and liver. But the worst part was that the larvae absorbed the water they were cooked in.

Each sizable larva exploded when I bit down, squirting larva just in my mouth with an audible “plup” sound. We only ate half our bowl, but it was still fun doing it. I’d prefer them fried, like in the photo above.

So, what about you? What are your favorite places to dig into weird foods? Have you tried anything I’ve mentioned?

An earlier version of this story appeared on the now-defunct Yahoo! Voices site.

Four Unusual Tourism Niches

tourism niches
A look at the sarcophagus at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are all sorts of tourism niches out there. You’ve heard of people traveling for food, shopping, golf, medical treatments, maybe even to visit war zones, disaster sites or the graves of dead celebrities. There’s also a lot of unsavory stuff out there that sways me from my usual stance that anything that motivates a person to get a passport, hop on a plane and get out of the usual milieu is a great thing. But let’s skip that for another day. I want to introduce you to a few tourism niches that I find genuinely interesting, potentially enriching and maybe just a bit nerdy.

tourism niches
View of Chernobyl taken from roof of building in Pripyat Ukraine. Photo Taken by Jason Minshull, then digitally zoomed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Atomic Tourism Right now, there are people taking a tour into the 1,000-square mile Exclusion Zone established to keep people away from the wreckage of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Tourists are heading to Ukraine to fork over rubles to go into one of the most ghostly areas ever – the abandoned city of Pryp’yat’. They’re braving high background radiation levels (this recent blog post will show readings from a Geiger counter at various places).

tourism niches
An active volcano is a great location for sound tourism. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are other sites that can take you straight back to the Atomic Age, from the excellent Titan Missile Museum in Arizona to the White Sands National Monument. Personally, I’d absolutely love to take a trip into the Exclusion Zone, mostly to see what happens to a city when humans all but abandon it; believe it or not, there are still people who squat in the Exclusion Zone for all sorts of reasons. Here’s another fascinating article about the Exclusion Zone.

Sound Tourism

tourism niches
Glaciers make incredible noises, too.

I wrote about this awhile back, and I’m still fascinated by the idea of going places to hear things. And I’m not talking about concerts. In some cases, sound tourism is about not hearing things – it’s about silence The Sonic Wonders website has a great collection of ideas for people interesting in sound tourism (definitely one of the tourism niches that interests me most). The booming sand dunes are closest to me over in California. The site also lists Jökulsárlón Floating Icebergs and the creaks from the little icebergs. Some of the more interesting natural sounds I’ve heard while traveling have been the sound of water flowing under a glacier, and the rumble of huge cinders belching out of Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica. Oh, and howler monkeys make a really eerie "woofing" sound. Urban Exploration This is one of those tourism niches for people who think creepy equals cool. If you’ve ever wanted to poke your nose into an abandoned building or spend the day mapping out an abandoned subway tunnel, this is for you.

tourism niches
English: Inside Richmond Asylum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you turn to the right information sources, you’ll discover all sorts of places in your urban environment are waiting for you to arrive armed with flashlights. Urban exploration does carry some high risks – arrest, accidents, even encounters with people who calls these "abandoned" areas home. Still, it’s all pretty tempting. I know of an entire largely forgotten underground portion of Phoenix that even has a bowling alley. And there has to be a lot more that nobody talks about – the same probably goes for your home city. Urban exploration reminds me a bit of caving. Enthusiasts don’t like to share their secrets with the masses. But here’s a good place to start.

tourism niches
Ol Doinyo Lengai Crater, Tanzania. Taken from south-western edge. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Volcano Tourism Out of all the odd tourism niches, this is probably my favorite. The forces that shape the world fascinate me. I’ve stood on mountains that are emitting sulfuric fumes. I’ve looked into recently erupted volcanoes. I’ve seen the aftermath of catastrophic explosions (the blown-out visage of Red Crater in the Tongariro National Park is my favorite example). It really makes me realize how much power geographic forces possess.

tourism niches
Imagine the explosive power behind making Red Crater explode.

If you’d like to see volcanic forces first-hand, I recommend Iceland, New Zealand and Hawaii. I would also have recommended the oddball volcano Ol Doinyo Lengai in Tanzania. National Geographic wrote an amazing piece about 10 years ago all about its unusual black, free-flowing, low-temperature lava. But an explosion blew the Tim Burton-esque landscape that was once at its summit into oblivion. Enjoy the photos, anyway. And there’s also a place in Guatemala where you can ride a sled down a volcano’s cinder landscape. Here’s a source for planning your own volcanic vacation.

Find Adventure at a Cenote Dive Site

cenote dive site
English: Cenote Ik Kil, near Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The SCUBA diving experts at the Professional Association of Diving Instructors have opened me up to the many adventures in their sport. Encountering underwater wildlife and examining shipwrecks could definitely lure someone into SCUBA diving.

But I started thinking about some of the reasons I like hiking; one of the main reasons I hike is to see cool geological sites. Volcanoes, towering cliffs, caves, that sort of thing. I asked my PADI friends what sort of geological oddities I could find underwater.

The PADI crew tells me the cenotes – or sinkholes – in Mexico might be the best bet. There are cenotes all around the world, from Australia to Canada to Zimbabwe. The famous The Great Blue Hole dive site in Belize is one example.

cenote dive site
Swimmers in cenote, Yucatan, Mexico. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But let’s talk about the cenote dive sites in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. They’re packed with stalagmites and stalactites, two of the features I like best in dry-land caves. These are some incredible caves. It sounds like you have thousands to pick from in the Yucatan thanks to a lot of limestone. You can narrow the search for a great cenote dive site by consulting a PADI dive centers near Playa del Carmen: Pro Dive Mexico, Scuba Playa and Dressel Divers can all help you find a great cenote dive site. If you really want a long-lasting adventure, find out which ones connect to larger, horizontal underwater cave systems (some cenotes are connected, and can extend 300 feet under the water table).

Cenote unterirdisch
Cenote underwater (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Something else cool about cenotes in Mexico: They have their place in the mythology of indigenous people. In the Maya culture, some cenotes like the Sacred Cenote of Chichen Itza were considered a gateway to the afterlife. So you may catch a glimpse of artifacts or human remains!

I’m still on a quest for more interesting underwater geological sites. I imagine that any underwater volcanic activity is probably too deep and otherwise dangerous for SCUBA divers to approach (but correct me if I’m wrong). And I’d love to know of submerged meteor impact craters, fissures -- just about anything. Chime in with anything you know about, and I’ll collect your info for a future post! In the meantime, here’s a fun blog post about cenotes in the Yucatan. It also has some good photos.

Thanks as always to my friends at PADI for the great information.


Review: Bhujang Collection Men’s Yoga Gear

men's yoga gear
The Viper shorts from Bhujang Collection are a great example of men’s yoga gear. (photo from the YogaForMen.com site)

Finding men’s yoga gear isn’t an easy task. Ever since I first learned how to down dog back in 1999, I’ve been pretty much wearing regular athletic shorts. For years, my go-to shorts for yoga were the cotton/bamboo blend shorts from tasc performance. I also have a pair of Prana shorts that I use often. I still like them both, but they still had a few things that kept them from being perfect yoga shorts.

Contrast this dilemma with the ladies – they have a pretty dizzying array of yoga gear. It’s almost too much, and that’s just at Lululemon (a place which puts me off for a number of reasons that could deserve a blog post of their own). All I wanted was some good men’s yoga gear, starting with shorts.

These days, I take only hot yoga classes. Some poses involve bracing a leg against another part of my body. So when I’m slippery with a coat of sweat, things don’t stay where they belong. My number-one problem area is that bit of leg right about the knee – where none of my shorts cover.

I got frustrated, and searched online for men’s yoga gear. One of my top results was a website called yogaformen.com. They have a bunch of different brands, but it was the Bhujang Collection shorts that grabbed my attention: They have full-length pants, and some shorts -- some of which cover that problem area above the knee.

The lowest price is $54, and they go up to $120. I know, know – that sounds like a lot. But get this: the Bhujang Collection men’s yoga gear is all made in the United States. By that, they mean the fibers are spun here. And it’s all knitted here.

Speaking of fabric and fibers, one of the key ingredients to the Bhujang Collection men’s yoga gear is MicroModal, which they call an eco-friendly fabric. Beechwood fiber is its key ingredient. (UPDATE May 17: I accidentally forgot to wash them after one class. I picked them up for my next class, gave a sniff … and no gross odor. I even accidentally wore them inside out, and they still felt great. Is there nothing these shorts can’t do?)

Men’s Yoga Gear in the Studio

OK, I’m a cheapskate. So I bought the cheapest Bhujang Collection shorts – the $54 Limited Edition Viper shorts. I got the long version in a large size (for the record and to see what might fit you, I’m 6’2, 205 pounds with a 34-inch inseam).

I typically wear underwear – usually my tasc performance ventilated compression shorts – with shorts that don’t have built-in underwear. But that didn’t quite feel right with the Bhujang Collection Viper shorts. So I skipped the undies, and everything felt just right.

The Bhujang Collection shorts are designed to fit a bit tight, but without infringing on your plumbing. In the yoga studio, they stayed put on me during inversions. When I had to put a foot or elbow or whatever on that now-covered spot above my knee, all the parts stayed in place – no slipping! This makes it a lot easier for me to deal with that damned "flying pigeon" pose that I hate so much. Maybe I won’t even hate it as much in the future.

According to the YogaForMen.com site, the Viper shorts are a bit more athletic in fit and a bit less plush in the fabric than the other Bhujang collection shorts. To me, that means that they’re not only the cheapest option, but also the best for my hot yoga needs.

The bottom line: If you need some men’s yoga gear, give the Bhujang Collection a try. Start with the Viper shorts if you lean toward hot yoga, or one of the Cobra shorts/pants if you prefer non-heated yoga. Skip the undies, go to your studio and revel in the comfort. I haven’t worn my tasc or Prana shorts to a yoga class since my first session with the Viper; I still use them for weightlifting, but the Viper is just a far superior, purpose-built example of men’s yoga gear.


Super-smooth process at YogaForMen.com with quick delivery. You can’t ask for much more. And if you do, you’re just getting greedy.

Finding Fun in the Maryland Suburbs

maryland suburbs
The Pop Shop – a great little place to visit in Frederick, Maryland.

During a recent post, I dropped a reference to visiting the Maryland suburbs. I’ve counted up all the time I’ve spent in that area for work and family visits -- the total stands right around seven months. That’s a good chunk, and I still find little to love about it. I can never find a decent espresso drink out there, and good breweries or restaurants are also way too scarce. It seems like everything is a Starbucks or a Chili’s. Good news, though – I actually found a few cool things in the Maryland suburbs this time. I’m going to focus on two new towns I hadn’t visited before -- and actually liked.

Ellicott City

I’ve spent very little time near Baltimore. Most of the in-laws seemed clustered around Rockville, until the sister-in-law and her husband got a place closer to Baltimore. About 10 minutes down the road from it, we found a cool little town called Ellicott City.

It has a river, a railroad and a bunch of nicely kept brick buildings. One of these fine buildings is home to the Ellicott Mills Brewing Company. Unfortunately, it specializes more in German-style beers, and they didn’t have an IPA or a stout. They still served a fine plate of fries and a nice late-night chocolatey dessert, along with some great advice about other local pubs and breweries that are worth a visit.

English: David J. Brantley Maryland Suburbs
A view of the main drag of Ellicott City. English: David J. Brantley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We visited the next day for breakfast, where we had some nice egg sandwiches at Bean Hollow. If you know the difference between a dry cappuccino and a wet cappuccino or know what a macchiato really is, Bean Hollow’s coffee won’t impress you. This is a frequent problem in Maryland. We took some time to wander the streets – Ellicott City is full of antique shops and other kitschy stores. It’s definitely a fun place to spend the better part of a day. Just beware all the paid parking.


After a few days, Sarah and I just wanted to get OUT of the sterile, endless tract of laboratories and chain restaurants that define Rockville and Gaithersburg. So we took a 30-mile drive to Frederick. Before we arrived, the terrain actually started to roll and have a countryside flavor to it.

maryland suburbs
The Community Bridge mural in Frederick. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We found a place to park, and started to wander the downtown Frederick district. It’s full of cafes and shops, much like Ellicott City. But it’s a lot bigger, and a bit less rustic. The North Market Pop Shop was one of my favorite finds – think of it as a microbrew store for high-end sodas; I drink a soda only every few months, usually because I find a place that offers something with real sweeteners instead of high-fructose corn syrup.

There’s also a cool knife shop called Edgeworks, which offered a better selection than anything in my home city of 4 million people. We also struck out coffee-wise in Frederick, though. Again on the plus side, I found a very fun record store (yes, real vinyl) called The Record Exchange. I picked up some coasters made from old Iron Maiden albums!

If you need to kill a day, Frederick is definitely a good place to do it. It’s a pleasant change from the typical Maryland suburbs.

One last thing: I have to imagine that some of the less-business focused areas in the Maryland suburbs have to be awesome on Halloween. That area just as a great Ichabod Crane colonial feel to it. I could see kids having a great time hitting the streets and scaring each other out there.