i woke up at 8am to get ready for my drive to saratoga springs. i found out my phone didn't charge last night, the charger must've been loose. i plugged the phone into the quick charger while i used the bathroom. i ate half a moon cake for breakfast and filled up my contigo insulated tumbler with ice water. i packed my suit, and a pair of dress shoes, along with my laptop, and the drone. i also brought along my motorcycle helmet, because tomorrow when i come back from upstate new york i'm picking up my bike from GBM after dropping the car off at my parents' place.
i left by around 9:30am. google map said it'd take me a little over 3 hours to get to saratoga springs (barring unforeseen traffic congestions) and john and i planned to be at his parents' house by 1pm. i cut through harvard square to get into the turnpike, I-90 west towards albany.
on the average, i might drive on the highway 1-2 times a year, sometimes none at all. i already had one highway driving experience this year, when i drove down to westwood to see eliza back in july. i needed that bit of practice to prepare me for this 3-hour long drive. conditions were favorable - nice, clear weather - and i didn't even need to turn on the AC, just had the air cranked up to maximum.
because i don't do a lot of highway driving, the whole trip i was basically white-knuckling the steering wheel. later when i checked my pulse, it was a steady 100bpm during the entire drive. it was 3 hours of total concentration, i didn't want to crash, especially given the speed everyone was driving at. the thing with long distance driving is the boredom, which combined with tiredness can be a deadly combination. i listened to the radio, first some NPR, then tried to scan for some 80's tunes. eventually the stations would change, and i'd have to scan for new signals.
it's amazing how fast people drive on the highway these days. the fastest posted speed limit is 65mph, but everyone is going 10mph above that at least. driving then becomes a game. i drove the middle lane, but when the car ahead of me is too slow, i pass them on the leftmost lane. i also had to be on the lookout for exits and be in the right correct lane, but for the most past the drive was just a straightaway, until i hit the cities and towns. to make it more challenging, the highways were clogged with delivery semi-trucks. often times they'd take up the middle and right lane, and the only way to get passed the blockage is to pass them. that was basically most of the drive, hitting a truck blockage, passing them, repeat again and again. only after i left MA after 2 hours did the truck traffic finally disappear. it was another 30 minutes to get to albany, and from there another 30 minutes to get to saratoga springs.
i actually arrived early, pulled off on the side of the road to let me parents know i arrived before driving the rest of the way to john's parents' house. i got there by 12:37pm, for a total driving time of 3 hours 10 minutes. i wasn't sure if i had the right place because there was no cars in the driveway, but i vaguely remember his parents' house from that one time dan and i visited. while i was trying to figure out if this was the right house, john came out to greeted me. he had a scraggly beard, i don't think i've ever seen him not clean-shaven before. he asked about the drive and thanked me for helping him out. looking out into the woodland backyard, there was a family of deers casually feeding in the understory. there was even one with antlers, which i've never seen before in the wild. john said there's coyotes in the area and one of them even managed to bring down a faun. while standing in the garage, a hummingbird nonchalantly flitted by, hovering in the air for a split-second before flying off.
we went inside the house. john's father was in the study, busy sending out e-mails to friends and families to let them know the address for the livestream broadcast of the funeral service. he apologized for being in his pajamas. john showed me the livestream setup: a tongveo 20x optical zoom PTZ camera ($420) mounted on a sturdy industrial metal tripod, connected to his laptop, using an app called OBS studio to stream to youtube live. it was actually his son will who gave him the idea to do it on youtube live (i suggested zoom, but youtube is definitely the better option, no login required, just an URL). i never used a 20x optical zoom PTZ camera before, the quality was surprisingly good (up to 1080p HD). the camera itself looked like a tabletop astronomy telescope. it also had 9 presets (controlled through a remote), which is key for what we're doing, essentially like having 9 different cameras. the camera didn't does have a mic, so in order to record the audio, we used an external zoom H1n microphone. john had an older H1 which he couldn't find so ended up buying a new one. everything was connected to the macbook via 30ft powered USB extended cords. we did a test livestream, i was able to stream it on my phone just fine.
later i familiarized myself with the camera operation and OBS studio streaming app, while john helped his father with the e-mail, half of which bounced back for some reason. turns out he was sending them from his old yahoo account, which had a problem with mass e-mails. once he used his gmail account, everything worked again.
we left for the church of saint peters at 2:49pm. the church is significant because john's mother went to catholic school here. john's father got in touch with the rectory who was willing to let us go inside the church briefly so we can do a test run of the livestream setup. we were running a little late, compounded by the fact that for some reason the automatic garage door was manually locked. it took us 17 minutes to drive there, we got there a bit after 3pm, when we were supposed to get there by 2:45pm. the rectory came out to let us inside the church. we all wore masks while we were inside the church. john's father told me the church had been renovated, moving the altar from one end of the church (the typical layout) to the center, for a more modern arrangement.
even though it didn't seem that long, we were there for nearly 45 minutes. we figured out where we wanted to put the camera and the microphone, and ran a livestream test. for some reason the church as amazingly fast wifi, both upload and download speed. later i realized it's because the church also does livestreams of its services, and there were at least two similar looking 20x optical zoom PTZ cameras mounted on the columns. we did a livestream test, everything looked fine, as we quickly disassembled our equipment and packed up to leave.
returning home, we stopped by mama mia's italian restaurant so john's father could pick up a menu to order some food for after tomorrow's funeral service. sitting in the backseat, i was very much a tourist as we passed beautiful mansions, horse tracks, lake saratoga, and lawn jockey statues. we returned to the house by 4:15pm.
john and i left again around 5pm, drove to downtown saratoga springs so he can get a new dress shirt and pick up some dinner. john filled me in on some more details of his mother's final days. she had a combination of peritoneal cancer (which i've never even heard of), ovarian cancer, and possibly even some of her formerly remission breast cancer had come back. he and his brother have been up at their parents' house to be with their father and take care of their mother. in her final week she was in so much pain, she was on morphine during that time and wasn't conscious anymore. on top of it all, john had just moved to a new house in pelham, and there was something wrong with the mortgage, and his whole family was homeless for a few days while things got sorted out. to make matters worse, deanna and the kids were involved in a high speed car accident that totalled one of their cars. so it's been a trying time for him, to say the least.
downtown saratoga springs was pretty happening, a lot of shops and restaurants and people. we were the few who wore masks while most folks were maskless. john bought his shirt at a jos a. bank shop. afterwards we wandered around to find the CVS to look for black face masks for tomorrow. john told me last summer they rented a house in saratoga springs just to get out of the city. his parents saw their grand kids everyday, and they got to know saratoga springs, enough such that john said he'd definitely move here if he could. they didn't have black face masks at CVS, so he got a few dark-colored cloth masks. after that we were about go go back to the car when i reminded me to get something healthy for deanna, so we went to putnam market to pick up a salad.
we then drove to PJ's bar-b-qsa to pick up our order which we made earlier. the place was very busy, and it took us a while to figure out what the name meant (QSA like USA). this was actually one of john's mother's favorite eating spots. while john was picking up, i was busy collecting various barbecue sauces in the little plastic cups. we stopped at a stewart's along the way to pick up some hamburger buns. i also grabbed a root beer. the cashier actually checked both our id's (because john bought some beer), which was a surprise. only later did i discover that the stewart's in upper new york is not the same stewart's restaurant in new jersey, even though the logos look nearly identical.
we finally got back to the house by 7pm. we bought 3 lbs. of pulled pork: i swear, i could've eaten it all because i hadn't eaten since the half piece of moon cake from early this morning. i ended up wolfing down 3 pulled pork sandwiches along with some fried okra. john and i also figured out some possible presets so we'd be ready tomorrow, while his father asked him to finish the euology. i left by 8:30p, before john and his brother tom's family arrived. we agreed to meet back at the church at 8am tomorrow morning. the church wouldn't be opened until 9am, the priest might let us in by 8:30am, but we were hoping we might be able to get in even earlier to set up, with the service starting at 10am.
they'd booked me a room at the gideon putnam hotel located inside the saratoga spa state park. leaving john's parents' house, john warned me that it'd be very dark. looking up a the pitch dark sky, all i could see were stars. if i was so tired and wanted to get to the hotel to crash, i would've stayed there longer to admire them. however the darkness was also scary, and pulling out of the driveway i was worried about accidentally driving into a ditch. it was pitch dark throughout and i used my high beams unless an oncoming car was heading my way. i saw an animal scampered across the road: there was no mistaking it as a fox. earlier john had told me he'd seen foxes around as well. the last and first time i saw a fox in the wild was in hamptons many years ago, and it was off the side of the road and i didn't get a very good look.
following google maps directions, i arrived at the hotel 19 minutes later by 8:45pm. it was weird driving through a state park ("avenue of pines") then finally coming across a hotel in the middle of it. too bad it was so dark, i couldn't really see anything. if i wake up early enough tomorrow, i could walk around a bit, but i had a feeling i'd probably be asleep. i checked in without my bags (in case i had the wrong place), then went back outside to get them. i wore a mask the whole time, i was probably the only guest wearing one, all the others with masks were hotel employees. there'd been an antique car show earlier, that's why section of the parking lot was cordoned off.
i could sense the history in the hotel. the hotel itself isn't very old, opened in 1935 as a place for guests to stay who were visiting the supposed natural healing properties of the various carbonated springs. my room was 1407 but when i got there the door said 1406-1407. i swiped the keycard and it brought me inside a foyer with two doors: one for 1407, one for 1406. the door for 1406 was opened, inside was an entertainment room with its own bathroom, while 1407 was the bedroom. the keycard opened both 1406 and 1407.
the bedroom itself was adequate, located on the inner corner of the hotel building. i could even see into the window of a neighboring room, which was a little weird (i closed the blinds). there was a large king size bed. driving up to saratoga springs, i realized i'd left my macbook pro charging cord at home. rummaging through my bags, i also discovered i left my phone charger as well. however, i did bring my portable battery pack, so i could still charge my phone that way. unfortunately i seemed to have lost my usb-c cord, the same cord i used to charge the phone from the car while i was driving. i put on my shoes and went back out looking for the cord. luckily it was in the trunk, i must've dropped it while taking out my suit.
i asked the front desk if breakfast was included with the room. she said no, there was a set meal for $16 (salmon was on tomorrow's menu), and there was also individual breakfast items for sale. by the time i got back to my room, it was 9:30pm. as tradition whenever i stay in a hotel, i took a hot bath. the water was slightly blue - not because of the nearby springs, more likely the result of chlorination treatment. the bathroom was big enough to fit a tub but was otherwise small; sitting on the toilet, my knees would hit the open door.
a few other things i noticed: there was also leftover trash still in the trash can, the lamps had mismatched light bulbs (one blue, one yellow), and even though there was a tv, there was no channel guide. it didn't matter anyway as i didn't have time to watch tv.
there was free wifi in the hotel - no password needed, just had to provide an e-mail address (not like anyone was going to drive into the state park just to use the free wifi). it was a good speed. i turned on the VPN on my phone just in case. this morning i'd downloaded the latest episode of ted lasso onto my laptop, i transferred it over to my phone so i could watch in bed. i discovered that bedside alarm clock1 actually has usb ports, so i didn't need my portable battery after all, just the usb-c cord. i went to sleep at 12:30am, using the pillows as blankets.
1 the alarm clock was a brandstand cubietime, the most popular hotel alarm clock because of its easy user interface and also functions as an extension cord.