Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Geocoin Update: From Alabama to...Cozumel?!

In the past, I've complained about the tendency of geocoins I've released to drop off the face of the Earth. When I release them, I imagine getting e-mail notifications of their journeys around the world. That will happen for a while, and then...silence. I will eventually mark them as missing on the geocaching site and then put them out of my mind.

I recently reported about the return of the "Free State Mover #3" geocoin, which showed up again after 2 1/2 years of inactivity. I recently got e-mail about another one for which I had given up hope.

Free State Generic #1, I last heard of being dropped off in Alabama two years ago. It spent 2008 in its home state of Maryland, 2009 travelling to Virginia, Tennessee, Florida, and South Carolina, before revisiting Florida in 2010 and coming to rest in Alabama in 2010. It then joined the ranks of the ones I had written off.

On Friday, it was grabbed by geocaching user "Rubio-Raffin Family" with the note, "found in Cozumel. Taking back to AZ for some dry heat." (I don't have a map update because it hasn't been logged into a cache since its Alabama days.) I now wonder what it has been doing for the past 2 years and how the heck it made its way down to Cozumel.

So after thinking it over, I think dropping off the face of the planet is fine, if they eventually resurface. It's particularly exciting to see the return of a coin I never thought I'd see again -- much more exciting than steady progress.

Monday, July 16, 2012

World Heritage Update: Down to 5.6%

UNESCO inscribed 26 new World Heritage sites this month, bringing the total List to 962. I haven't been to any of the new sites, so my total is still at 54. My percentage drops from 5.8% to 5.6%. I haven't seen any new sites this year, and with my travel schedule somewhat curtailed, I may not see any. I do have a possible trip to China, but that's up in the air for a number of reasons.

Of the new sites, which ones would I like to visit?
I'm sure some of the other ones are interesting if I knew more about them (and some are not). Most are in countries I have no expectation of visiting, so I'm in no hurry to research them.

For the past week or two, I've been recording a 5-minute program called "World Heritage Wonders," which is produced by NHK, the Japanese broadcaster. The first few I saw were about the Shiretoko Peninsula, and I was afraid they'd all be about the same place -- it almost seemed ike a travel ad. (But did make me want to visit.) But then they moved on to the
Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, so I wondered whether all of them would be in Japan. The next one, though, was about the Taj Mahal, and most recently I've seen one on the Jongmyo Shrine, which I visited last year. Now I'm wondering whether they'll visit sites outside Asia. Either way, it's enjoyable, and the 5-minute time span is about right for me these days.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Bowie Restaurant Project: (53) Red Robin Gourmet Burgers

Red Robin at Bowie Town Center
For an explanation of the Bowie Restaurant Project, look here.

For a list of all the Bowie Restaurant Project reviews, look here.

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, 15650 Excelsior Dr
Most Recent Foursquare Check-in: 07/01/2012
Total Foursquare Check-ins: 2
Pre-Foursquare Visits: No
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

I like a good burger joint. My favorite place in the world to get burgers is Bare Back Grill in San Diego. Grass-fed beef, properly cooked, good beer, and at the Pacific Beach location a beach -- what more could you want? In Maryland, you're not going to get that, but in Hyattsville, near where we used to live, you can find Franklin's and Hank's. I give the edge to Franklin's, but both do a good job.

The first time I got food from Red Robin, I was confused about what type of place it was -- I didn't realize it was a sit-down restaurant. So I ended up picking up my order at the bar from a very nice employee. They have a selection of interesting ways to prepare the burgers, but they didn't offer me how they wanted it cooked, so I ended up with a well-done burger. A well-done burger can be an enjoyable experience (as I'm reminded whenever I end up at Wendy's), but it's not going to be great. After taking my meal back to the office, I found out that people said you could specify how you wanted your burger cooked, but you had to make a point of telling them.

I didn't have an opportunity to try this out until recently, when the power outage sent us fleeing to a local hotel and much of Bowie to the restaurants that still had power. A 40-minute wait seemed reasonable under the circumstances.

I ended up ordering another burger, this time medium-rare. It showed up well-done, but was otherwise tasty. Christina, having had a burger recently, had the fish and chips, which she enjoyed. The twins had selections from their fairly extensive kids' menu. Christina and I both had their endless root beer float, which was tasty.

The service was somewhat spotty. Some of that may have been due to the power-outage-related rush, but probably not all of it. I only got one refill on the endless float, because it was hard to flag down our waiter, who also forgot items here and there.

So the bottom line is that I can't rate it too well as a burger joint. I don't think the burger I had was appreciably better than one from the nearby Five Guys, although the choice of toppings is more interesting here. Burgers tended to run around $9, so you'll pay for that variety. If I'm by myself and I want a burger, I'll save a few bucks and head to Five Guys

On the other hand, you'll get a sit-down experience and more options for entertaining the kids. We had a nice enough time. But with the disappointing nature of their signature dish and the many other options in the immediate vicinity (DuClaw, Uno, for example), I can't rate this any higher than 2.5 stars.

Bowie Restaurant Update

Today marks the anniversary of my first review. I managed a once-a-week average in the first year. I thought I'd do better, but I have run out of a little bit of steam once the list narrowed to sit-down restaurants, many of them uninspiring. It's pricey dining out, it's time consuming, and with kids it can be exhausting. I'm still planning to finish the project, but I am not in any particular hurry.

That leaves 26 restaurants (3 of which are not open yet). So I need a pace of one restaurant every other week to finish by next July.

About a month ago, there was a fire at the Jersey Mike's sub shop under construction, reported Bowie Living. I'm not sure how that will impact their planned opening.

Despite the fact that they told me three months ago that they'd have online ordering in 30 days, the online ordering page at Bang Bang Mongolian Grill still says "coming soon". It doesn't seem a great dine-in place for two-year-olds, so I'll probably wait until they have that option, or I can convince someone to do lunch there.