Getting My Cheesy Kitch On: Our Visit to South of The Border

south-of-the-border-700x209Drive up or down I-95 and after miles and miles of billboards promoting the place, just south of the North Carolina/South Carolina state line, you’ll find South of The Border (SOTB), a tourist attraction in Dillon SC, whose name is a tongue-in-cheek tip of the hat to its Mexican theming. A well worn tourist attraction since its humble beginnings as a beer stand 1949 (the just-north-of-the-border NC counties were “dry” at the time), SOTB runs on both sides of highway 501 and contains, among other things, a truck stop, a 300-room motel, several souvenir shops that sell everything from T-shirts to hats to fireworks to leather goods to beachwear and everything in between, a handful of restaurants, a 200-foot tall observation tower shaped like a sombrero, and the largest reptile exhibit in the country. Oh, and don’t forget the dozens of statues of animals such as dinosaurs, gorillas, dolphins, flamingos, etc., painted in whatever garishly beautiful color was the cheapest paint at the store that day.

For most people, SOTB is just a rest stop. For me, it was a vacation destination. See, I had
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That Time When 40 Spider-Man Cosplayers Filled A Jetstar Plane

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 11.56.19 PM.png“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is scheduled for release next month and to celebrate the event, budget airline Jetstar recently unveiled its brand new Spider-Man-themed “Spider Jet” airplane in Japan. They didn’t stop there, though! As another part of their summer marketing campaign, Jetstar also encouraged Spider-Man cosplayers to enter a contest in order to be on Spider Jet’s maiden flight. The one stipulation was

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Our Weekly Recap: 6/18/17 – 6/24/17

Hi everybody and WOO HOO, IT’S THE WEEKEND!! Here’s a quick recap of our posts this week:

Joe wrote about:

Sharon wrote about:

Like this post? We have plenty more just like it and would love if you decided to hang around and clicked the button on the top of this page to follow our blog and get emailed notifications of when we post (it’s usually just once or twice a day). Whether you’ve read our posts before or this is the first time you’re stopping by, we’re really glad you’re here and hope you come back to visit again!

The Most Sexist Hotel Bar In The World?

Sexism is apparently alive and well at Japan’s Hilton Osaka, where their new (it opened in March) cafe/bar, called My Place, currently has a discount offer running for women who wear high heels – and the higher the heels, the more of a discount they’ll receive.

Wait, what the…?!?!?! Yeah, I know. Read more for the details…
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#TBT: Japan April 2005: Laundry in Nagoya, Travel to Hakone, Hakone Ryokan

Laundry Day!

We woke up at 7am and packed everything except our week’s worth of dirty laundry. Went down to the front desk and got directions to the coin laundromat (this place is way too fancy-shmancy to have its own laundry facilities on site). The girl at the desk said it was about a 20 min walk and, after I valiantly (and stubbornly) tried to carry my share of the clothes we needed to wash, we decided to take a taxi. The girl in the main lobby would not let me hold my own bag, which turned out to be a good thing because the taxi driver had NO idea of what we were talking about or where this place was, even with a map. And even with the main lobby girl’s help, he still had to ask for directions as we got closer.

The washing machines in Japan are decidedly smaller than in the US and with that, along with Joe wearing clothes that are significantly larger than the average Japanese (and mine only slightly smaller), we wound up having to do 9 days’ worth of clothes in 4 loads (grin). Took about 2 hours, give or take. Prices were ¥400 (“big” washer…yeahright), ¥300 (medium) and ¥200 (small), and ¥100 per 10 minutes of gas dryer time.


“How to use the washing machine,” with cute little mermaid character to help you follow the precautions


“How to use the dryer” too.


At one point, I think the 3 of us were using every machine in the room


Proof that it’s REAL gas in the gas dryer…see the flame?

After our laundry was done, we went back to our hotel and did our final packing. Japan has a system where you can mail big packages, including luggage, to another destination. So for our next leg of the trip, which was only for 2 days, we packed our carry-on luggage and sent our “big” luggage on to Tokyo Disneyland, which was our destination for Sunday. It was less than $25 per bag and saved us the hassle of shlepping our big pieces with us (MODERN-DAY NOTE: Japan still offers luggage transportation services and let me tell you, it is WONDERFUL and SO convenient! We used Takkyubin, which is the company that Japan Rail Pass recommends. Because their logo is a mother cat holding a kitten, we started referring to it at the pussycat service).

After finally checking out, we had bell services hold our carry-ons (which still weighed a ton…Joe’s backpack was a good 35 pounds and his overnight bag was probably well over 40 pounds) while we had lunch at the hotel’s Chinese restaurant. The food was OK, although part of the meal was somewhat unidentifiable (grin).

Picked up our luggage and made our way to the train station. Spent quite a bit of time looking for postcards as well as for the place where we could make our Shinkansen reservations. Finally got that done and went on the Shinkansen for our 2-hour train ride to the Odawara station of Hakone.

We had misjudged the amount of time it would take to get to our next hotel (MODERN-DAY NOTE: Joe wrote about the issue in his post called “My Most Embarrassing Travel Mistake“), which was actually a ryokan (Japanese-style bed & breakfast) called “Hotel Taiseikan,” that also served us dinner. So we bought some bento boxes (pre-made meals in a box) in case we got there after the 6:30pm “last serving” deadline (and since I’m typing this at 6:55pm on the train from Odawara, I don’t think we’re gonna make it (wink).

Later on…

Well, it’s now 9:05pm and no, we didn’t make it anywhere near 6:30pm, but after our arrival at 7:50pm, they said they would serve us in our room at 8pm. After Joe called to let them know we would be late, they kept their ONE employee who (kinda, sorta) spoke English, so she could serve us. And what a dinner it was – I think there were 10 courses all together! 2 or 3 kinds of soup, and rice and Japanese noodles and vegetables and meats and fish and geez, I don’t remember what else. Oh yeah…cooked baby squid. I’m proud to say that I did TRY the baby squid…and hated it (wink). We specifically asked ahead of time for meals without sashimi for me…so at least I didn’t have to worry about anything raw(MODERN-DAY NOTE: my culinary tastes have broadened TREMENDOUSLY since 2005 and, short of raw horse and whale, there is very little I will not eat in Japan nowadays). Steve has gone to Morimoto in Philly (the place run by The Iron Chef) and he says a meal like that would have cost about $200 each at a restaurant. Usually they would serve us course by course, but since we had gotten there so late, they gave us everything at once. Here’s an idea of the spread they gave us:


I have no idea what I was holding in my chopsticks but, even if it was not raw, there was NO WAY I was gonna eat it.

Our “room” (more like a freakin’ condo!) is HUGE:


As you enter, there’s a 4’x11′ entry foyer where we leave our slippers (we already left our shoes near the front desk…the amazing thing was that when we’d leave our room and go to the hotel lobby, our shoes [and ONLY our shoes, no one else’s shoes] were already out, waiting for us! Anyway, you have to walk either barefoot or just in socks in the rooms…Japanese tradition, plus shoes or even slippers would ruin the delicate tatami floors)


There is a 8’x8′ entry room that we used for our luggage (sorry it’s blurry)


This is our 15’x18′ bedroom/eating room


The beds are Japanese-style futon mattresses on the floor, by the way. Not nearly as uncomfortable as you’d think. Either that or we were just too exhausted to care, by the end of the day.


This was a 6’x21′ porch that overlooked a garden and waterfall (we didn’t get to actually SEE the garden & waterfall until the next morning…but we heard the waterfall all night long. Made you have to pee. And the toilet was 20′ down the hall, in the parts of the room/condo that weren’t heated. With overnight temps in the 40’s. Oh joy.)


and a 15′ hallway that led to 2 of the 4 double closets on the right and a water closet (with a heated seat on the toilet) on the left (from this picture…I’m at the far end of the hallway…the entry foyer is the opening on the left side and 8′ x 8′ “luggage” room is directly in front of me, at the end of the hall). By the way, you see where the archways of the rooms are? Joe and (especially) Steve hit their heads on those ALL the time…..


Water closet with the weirdest toilet tank water-refill system we ever saw…the water was fed through a pipe to be OVER the tank and then poured in, like a water fountain.

Nearly all of this (except the water closet) has tatami mat flooring. The only thing we haven’t found yet is a shower

Tomorrow is Saturday and I believe we’re going to visit the Japanese-style baths. Joe found something like a Japanese-style “bath theme park,” where you can wear a bathing suit instead of the normal nude bathing. Good thing, huh?

Joe is trying to set up the computer for dial-up here in Hakone so I can get this note out. If you can read this, it worked (grin). More when I can…

Saturday morning…well, the good new is that we found our room with the tub. We just didn’t know how to use the doorknob (grin):


This hallway has closets on the right side, with extra blankets and pillows. At the end was what we thought was just a wall with wooden slats for decoration.


But nope! Turned out one of the slats was actually the “latch” to open what was not a wall, but a door that lead you into:


A modern-day sink setup. And if you walked through that tiny room, you discovered this:


A Japanese-style bath, made out of rocks! You sit on the little wooden stool, wash yourself and rinse with the bamboo buckets that are next to the tub (there are separate faucets, outside of the tub, to get the water from), and then sit and soak and contemplate in the rock tub, which is fed by the hot spring water.

The bad news is that Joe still can’t get the dialup to work, so I’m not sure when y’all will be able to read this.


Update…he got it to work! Yippee!

For Newbies: Going Through X-Ray or TSA Pre✓® As Easily As Possible

We all know the process of getting through X-ray has become something of a time consuming organized chaos in the past several years. In fact, I’d put it up towards the top X-rayof the more stressful parts of air travel, up there with delays and the actual flight. Getting approved for TSA Pre® (which is currently available in more than 180 airports, with 37 participating airlines nationwide) or Global Entry does help tremendously, but even then, there are people who are not super familiar with the modern-day process of going through X-ray, with or without TSA Pre✓®, simply because they don’t fly very often, and sometimes that unfamiliarity can cause the line to snag even more. Here’s a list that might help:

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Great Deal! Stay 3 Nights For The Price of 2 at Hilton’s Waldorf-Astoria, Conrad & Curio Brands

mainlobby
Lobby of Waldorf=Astoria in NYC

Ah, the Waldorf Astoria. The name alone conjures up thoughts of exquisite accommodations, unparalleled service and high end everything. Joe and I were lucky enough to stay at the original Waldorf=Astoria in NYC earlier this year, just before it closed for a 3-year renovation, thanks to what was, essentially, an offer that we think never should have been approved (from a business standpoint) before it was published. That was when they advertised “Stay two or more nights and get one night free, AND receive a $75 Visa gift card” and we grabbed the offer before it was pulled :-). So we stayed at the Waldorf=Astoria for 2 nights, got one of the nights for free AND got a $75 Visa gift card, because yup, that’s how the ad could be interpreted. WINNING!

Almost unbelievably, the offer has been introduced again, and
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