I’ve Driven Past The Stables for 30 Years, Today I Ate There

It’s an institution that I’ve never set foot in.  The white restaurant, set back from road, with the big parking lot in Hadley, across from the Mountain Farms Mall.  The crowded lot said a lot. Indeed the place was packed when Ed, John and I showed up for lunch.

Menu for Stables, Hadley, MA

The menu at Stables, Hadley, Mass

We make it a habit to have lunch at different restaurants every week, and this one was new. After a short wait, we took seats at the back of the restaurant, past the counter.  The waitress was friendly as she rang up each customer at the register then they returned to their tables. Old School.

Already I liked it. The Stables menu is an interesting mix…crock of beans and two beef franks?  Turkey Rueben with onion rings?   A side of peas?  CHECK!   California burger with avocado and fries.  That completed our order.

I noticed that most of the customers were my age or older.  Like this  place was for those who’ve lived in the Valley for years, it’s not the kind of place you see ads for.  The prices are cheap, in fact the cheapest lunch I’ve seen in a while. My total, for Turkey Rueben, coffee and tip was $9!

Ed ordered a sandwich to go and the staff reminded me not to let him forget it, as it was on a shelf near our table.  It felt like this restaurant was from another time, a more gentle time.

I think The Stables is one of the best places for lunch or breakfast in the Amherst area.

Newsletter Experiments: Trying Harder to Reach our Readers

I have been trying hard to improve my GoNOMAD newsletter opening rate, realizing that you can’t just assume that people will open every email. You have to put more into it.  I did some reading and was quite inspired by a blog that challenged my thinking.  Though the blog maintains that there is simply no better way to reach people than through their email inbox, you have to work harder and make it better if you want people to open them.

With this in mind, I sent out my February GoNOMAD Travel Articles newsletter and added a few twists.  First, I included an audio version of a story I wrote recently about Rotterdam, the Netherlands. I figured that the way I enjoy podcasts, people might be interested in something a little different. So far, in the 10 hours since I sent out the email, ten readers have clicked to listen to me read my story.

I also included an offer of a consultation with anyone who was interested in learning about how to use content marketing to improve their business. I offered five free 30 minute consultations, and so far two readers have expressed an interest.  I think these types of steps will pay off in the long run because email is truly the most personal of all ways you can reach people.  I think if I can keep experimenting and trying new ways, we are bound to succeed.

UPDATE:  The February 2016 GoNOMAD newsletter had a 34 percent opening rate and 4% click through rate to read the stories.  15 people so far listened to the audio file of the Rotterdam story.  Then a few days later, I sent the newsletter out to every email that had not opened it, with a new subject line.  This time there was a 16 percent opening rate and 2 % click through.  So…combined, we had a 50% opening and 16 people listening to the audio.  YESSS!!

LinkNYC Means the Fastest, Free Wi-Fi, All Over New York City

New York City is leaping ahead of the rest of the country with a plan that’s just now starting service to install free Wi-Fi kiosks all over the city that provide the fastest internet, eight times as fast as the average apartment served by Time Warner Cable.   It’s an exciting time in the Big Apple as people begin to see what life has been like in Finland and Korea–downloading movies in 45 seconds and hitting website in milliseconds.

The whole project, called LinkNYC, is being sponsored by advertising on the kiosks which will be placed where 500 pay-phones used to stand. A slim stainless steel structure will house a screen, three USB charging plugs, and emit the powerful signal, at blazing speed. They’ve even set up the system so you can download a file to your iPhone and never have to log in and know a password again, called Passpoint.

Some people are skeptical about security. Mark Wuergler, of Immunity Inc, told the Wall Street Journal that he thinks hackers will quickly try to hack the NYC system, “it’s too big of a trophy.”   But CityBridge, the firm contracted to build the system say they have many experts working around the clock to keep it safe. A tip from Wuergler is to avoid filling out any online forms if the website they are on is not HTTPS, which you can see in the address bar.

Interns Are Now Being Trained by Former Interns at GoNOMAD

Today’s a funny kind of day. I woke up feeling terrible and had two new interns coming in to learn the ropes in the office at 9 am.  But I was very prepared–I decided to hire one of my former interns, Danielle Aihini, to teach the two new interns all of the ropes.  She prepared a list of their assignments and knows how to train them to use our system. So far, it’s all going well.

So now I am in bed upstairs and meanwhile the interns are learning to publish stories on the website and publishing new travel pieces by other writers. I am sure they will have questions, but it’s sure nice to know they’re learning what they need to and it can all happen while I”m not even there.

I am passionate though, about teaching them writing skills and many other aspects about web publishing. I don’t think I’ll take many more days off after we get them up and running, because I want to help them become better writers.

My goal is though to have Danielle helping me with keeping track of these interns so that I can free up time to make sales calls and generate more income for our business.  I am optimistic that I’ve made the right choice.

Skiing in the Past and Today

The olden days when skiers learned the Stem Christie.

I’m sort of an irregular skier, but I’m fascinated by how the sport has evolved and how different it is in different parts of the country.  Today I just finished skiing my second day at Mont Tremblant in Quebec, where just about everyone is friendly and kind.

Nearly every single skier here was wearing a helmet, the big line for the gondola was like a sea of black shells.  I notice too that all of the helmet wearers also provide advertising space for their goggle makers–why do all skiers offer all of this real estate for free?  Between the giant logos embroidered on the front of the jackets and the glaring “BOLLE” or “SMITH” logos, you’d think we’re all getting ready for a NASCAR race.

The big lines go quicker if you are taking a ski lesson, and can cut in, as well as for singles who can sneak up a bit to join three others on the 4 person lift.

The big lines go quicker if you are taking a ski lesson, and can cut in, as well as for singles who can sneak up a bit to join three others on the 4 person lift.

I have many fond memories that go back forty years to when people used long black Head skis with little etched personalized names up on the top.  We used to go to ski school and learn the stem christie, which I am told is no longer taught on the slopes.  Today’s parabolic skis are very wide and the lessons teach feet a foot apart, and no one knows what a wadlyn is.  I had no luck looking up this word, which you might call a ‘ski twist’ which was perfected by Austrian performer Hansi Hinterseer in the 70s.  I used to love watching skiers who could do those quick short turns, but you don’t see that any more.

One thing I learned here is that when you’re confronted with a big lift line, head for the singles line, which if you’re willing to forego riding up with your friends, speeds up the pace and sets you next to three other strangers on the four-person chair lifts.  Many of the visitors from England or other European countries who ski at Tremblant always hire a guide, or take lessons. This gives them access to cut the line,  using a special quicker entrance, which can save 30 minutes when it’s crowded.

Pierre, who works for the mountain, told me about how aggressive skiers in Europe are while they are in the lift line, how they don’t hesitate to bump into another person and fight hard to get in front. Here, people are relaxed and nobody ever fights in the lift lines.

In the Laurentian Mountains, the Perfect Trio–Cheese, Chocolate and Snowshoes

Enjoying cheese fondue in the high altitude Refuge de Trappeurs at Mont Tremblant.

Enjoying cheese fondue in the high altitude Refuge de Trappeurs at Mont Tremblant.

The cozy gas lantern-lit Refuge de Trappeurs is where the cheese fondue is served. It's also a restaurant for skiers at Tremblant.

The cozy gas lantern-lit Refuge de Trappeurs is where the cheese fondue is served. It’s also a restaurant for skiers at Tremblant.

Getting our lights and gear ready for the 5 km down hill snowshow from the Refuge de Trappeurs to the base of Tremblant.

Getting our lights and gear ready for the 5 km down hill snowshoe from the Refuge de Trappeurs to the base of Tremblant.

Tonight we had a nighttime adventure in the deep dark woods of the Laurentian mountains in Quebec.  Our group of 21, ranging in age from 6 to 65, met up at the base lodge of Mont Tremblant and tried on snowshoes, then we took the gondola straight up to the windy, snowy summit of the mountain.

In single file as the afternoon light waned and clouds drifted in front of the setting sun, we entered the forest full of snowy trees close by our faces and we hiked down and around a one kilometer track.  Our destination was the Refuge de Trappeur, in the Versant Soleil area of the large ski resort, a rustic cabin restaurant with gas lighting and a cozy wood stove.

Here, two friendly cooks had the beers and wine ready and the cheese already bubbling for the fondue.  A table was spread with salads, sausages, vegetables and sliced ham.  Using the narrow fork, and twisting as we removed them from the cauldron, the delicious fondue went down easily.  It was a hearty repast fit for such a rustic and isolated cabin, at the top of the 2800 foot mountain.

After the cheese, it was time for the chocolate. Strawberries, bananas and pineapple were laid out on the table and we dipped the pieces in  melted chocolate. After everyone was fully sated, it was time to don our headlamps and start the trek down the mountain, about 4 km.

It was a little harder this time, in places the trail was steep, and more than a few of us landed on their butts. I even fell over backward while shooting a video of the trail.  It was a winding, steep in places trail but the full moon above the Laurentians cast a glow on the line of snowshoers.  The combination of the cold winds, the delicious repast, and the long hike made this a memorable evening, and one I’d highly recommend.

The tour and snowshoe rental for adults is $95, kids 8-12 years, $60, includes fondue dinner, headlamps, guided tour and the gondola ride.  Details here.