I haven’t been out to the Detroit-Windsor corridor since late 2008, when my brother-in-law got married there and only 9 months into dating, Sarah led me into an ambush, seating me at a table with many of her paternal uncles and cousins who I’d meet for the very first time. (Quite the feat to make a good impression while hungover, but that, my friends, is a story for another time!)
This year, they kicked it up a notch by invited me as one of a dozen Canadian bloggers as their guest at Putting You In The Driver’s Seat: the NAIAS Blogger Experience, which revolved aroundthe 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan.
BiSClaimer: You’re about to experience my six-day Vegas adventure in the span of one post. If you’re not ready to take in all the awesome through text, video and images galore, turn back now. Once I start, I will not stop until it’s out of my system. You have been warned.
It’s been almost a solid month since Bloggers in Sin City, and it’s taken about this long to get off the buzz from my BiSC-uit high. In the time since I’ve been back, I’ve volunteered at a national conference, listened to amazing speakers, eaten delicious food and got up to much of the madness I would’ve done before I went to BiSC.
But it just wasn’t the same.
When I got back, many friends and family members expected that I’d spent all my time partying, getting drunk and gambling, because that’s what you do in Vegas, right? At least that’s what TV and movies tell us.
But there’s so much more to the Vegas experience than you can imagine. You need the right people and the right opportunities to make it happen, though!
In the time I’ve been gone, I’ve changed jobs, Toronto was hit by a blizzard and Burger King’s Twitter account got hacked in a gloriously hilarious fashion.
That’s the best you could do in four days, Toronto? Shoot.
I’ll tell you all about my trip soon enough; until then, there are other stories to tell and photos to share 🙂 I hope you enjoy the madness I was up to leading to the trip, and the many stories I’ll have to share from the trip itself!
But let’s start with another trip — one that found me and some close friends in Buffalo, NY….
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TeamTrolling Does America
When you have a good thing going, you’ve gotta let it grow and not see it burn out. We can form strong friendships with others, but developing those relationships involves a dedicated effort as you get to know each other, share experiences and better understand one another through spending more time together.
6:30 am of Saturday, February 9th (i.e. the day right after Snowmageddon and the Ford Blue Party) marked the beginning of TeamTrolling Does America, the trip Marcel, Justin, Lily, Sarah and I would take across the border in pursuit of “shopping and cheesecake” (word for word, that’s what we told border security)! After Snowmageddon 2013, the road conditions weren’t the best (especially in Mississauga, you cheapskates), but — despite some horrid route choices — we were able to get all of our passengers together and into Buffalo, NY to get our shop on!
Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls
I mean, could you imagine me walking in the room wearing these? IT ALMOST HAPPENED, PEOPLE!
Justin and Marcel make a new friend at the booth giving toothbrushes away. Best moment: Justin: “Sir, can we get a photo?” Marcel and Case: *cough* “MA’AM” *cough*
If I had unlimited money, I’d shop at Cole Haan, Calvin Klein and Express ALL THE TIME.
The Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls are by far the better shopping centre. While there’s nothing particularly glamorous about Buffalo, NY, don’t let the run-down exterior throw you off — there be deals in this little shopping complex!
Compared to the later trip to the Walden Galleria, we all found more stuff we were happy with at this stop!
Our first stop would see the start of a theme for the day — Casey running around looking for juice. The Samsung Galaxy S3 is wicked fast, but the use of an LTE network to make it that quick drains a battery like a vampire at a blood bank. By the time we’d made our way to Hamilton to grab Justin, the battery was already half gone. So it was pretty lucky that there were posts in the Fashion Outlets’ food court with outlets!
That were only there for show.
Thus, with no steady stream of power to work from, I was all over the place, trying to find my next fix so I could take advantage of the Rogers Day Pass for data over the border. I’ve since bought a Mophie Juice Pack for my phone, but having to constantly look for extra power at the time was painful.
Power in Numbers
Team up with friends to get the best deal possible through volume purchasing.
e.g. Sarah and I both hit Cole Haan up separately and spent $230 combined. Already getting awesome deals on our purchases, it would’ve been even BETTER if we’d shopped together, because they were giving $50 off on purchases of $250 or more. So coordinate where you can!
Learn how to park, damnit!
The parking lot of the Fashion Outlets was atrocious. Justin covers how bad it was than I do below:
Fools trying to park diagonally, man. DIAGONALLY.
They sell beer in America. BY THE PINT. FOR THREE DOLLARS. IN 24-HOUR GROCERY STORES.
When a grocery store is so massive that it needs a DIRECTORY, you know there’s a lot of stuff in there.
I couldn’t tell why you’d want cookies in the shape of dogs instead of… regular cookies.
I feel like I need to live in a border town so I can take advantage of the cheap and constantly make my way back over the border in a stupor. By foot, of course.
Justin wonders just how many pretzels the average American actually NEEDS.
I find it hard to blame America for its obesity problems when there’s so much DELICIOUS afoot
This may have been the single greatest product we saw in TOPS. Needed a better slogan, though, like: “Marley’s One Drop Coffee! It’ll get you IRIE!!!”
Everything’s bigger in the States. Everything.
We got to TOPS expecting to find cool flavours and snacks that never see the light of day in Canada, but the labyrinthine building that held it all totally caught us off-guard!
We definitely saw the power of population density at play with lower prices, massive variety and no pesky 5¢ charge for plastic bags!
BURGERS AS BIG AS YOUR HEAD
The best sign EVER for pretty much ANYONE using social media
It was massive, it was delicious and the combination of the two made for an AMAZING nap afterward.
I tried some of the sauce that these chicken wings were basted in, and I was happy that I didn’t order them!
The burger that Sarah and Lily shared — it’s a cheddar burger, not a cheeseburger, Lily!!!
I often try to find the intersection between the two, but they’re not ALWAYS the best bedfellows!
Maitre’d? Front-door host? Hell to the no. Sign your damn name up and we’ll call you when we’re ready!
Justin contemplating the rest of the trip to be had
The fries were decent…
Melted cheese and unseasoned ground beef. Not my thing!
I may be exaggerating — slightly — but the side trip to Grover’s for food was worth it — Justin heard of it from Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. I wasn’t a huge fan of the cheeseburger soup (yes, you read that right), but the Cattleman burgers that the boys each ordered hit the spot.
Never ask what the difference between a “cheese burger” and a “cheddar burger” is in America lest you immediately be branded as an outsider and treated like a second-class citizen
Always, always, always be as hungry as possible when entering an American dining establishment. We take it for granted that portion sizes are ridiculously massive south of the border. If you don’t have the tummy room for it, don’t do it.
If you have a child screaming/crying like it’s a banshee freshly escaped from hell, there is something wrong. Please go to the car with said child and see if you can sort it out. (Note: regular crying? Totally cool. We totally should’ve recorded these banshee screams so you’d know how bad it was!)
The Walden Galleria
If you haven’t been to Walden in a while, I wish you luck if you step foot in there.
Dimly lit, map-free (far as I could see) and utterly massive, the Walden Galleria was a shopping nightmare compared to the awesome that was the Fashion Outlets of Niagara. It looms like a shopping dungeon on the horizon, with twisting and turning roads and a confusing parking layout to top it all off.
I’d eventually buy a thing or two from the Designer Shoe Warehouse (DSW) and Banana Republic, but it was little return for the hours spent wandering, re-tracing steps and being generally envious of how cheap American prices are compared to those north of the border.
The Cheesecake Factory
The second-most delicious cheesecake that I’ve tried from The Cheesecake Factory.
The MOST delicious cheesecake I’ve eaten from The Cheesecake Factory! OH MY GOODNESS, so DELICIOUS!!!
Though tired and beaten, we did eventually make it to The Cheesecake Factory to try some of the cheesecake we’d been hearing so much about. Remember what I said earlier about things being bigger in the States? You should’ve seen Lily’s Cobb Salad:
That’s no salad. You can’t call it a salad when it’s as big as your head!!!
But we still had jokes to tell, a waiter to inadvertently insult about both his age and his height, and the need to rest our feet after the long day we’d had!
THE END OF DAY WRAP-UP
I’ve been FIENDING for this since I first tried it at my friend’s in Green Bay, WI back in 2010. Soon. SOON I shall CONSUME!
When your Mom asks you to buy some bread in the States and bring it back over the border, there’s only one answer you can give her…
Good sweaters only last so long, and if you only wear black — hot tip: it’s time to diversify. Here’s my step in the right direction!
These boots are made for walkin’! And walkin’ very STYLISHLY I should mention!
When drinks are so cheap, why not get two?
This Gatorade cost only A DOLLAR OR TWO. It would’ve needed a second mortgage in Canada!!!
After getting a pair of Adidas Sambas stolen from my porch, a pair of Penguins seemed to do the trick to replace them!
Despite all the junk we’d be eating in Buffalo, it was good that SOMEONE had our best interests at heart!
It was a good day in Buffalo — here’s the grand sum of it all!
Normally you can only find this at Christmas in Toronto, but in Buffalo they have it ALL YEAR LONG.
We closed the day off with the long trek home and a hassle- and duty-free border crossing (Hot Tip: be honest and cross your fingers for a nice and lenient border guard); but more importantly, we proved — for the first time — that Trolls can get along for long stretches of time and not lunge at each other’s throats!
If a close group of friends can do a day in the States without a problem — what will tomorrow hold?
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands: