What I Learned on my Summer Vacation
Randy Cox
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Clemson
South Carolina
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Last week, we spent five and a half fun-filled days in sunny Narragansett, Rhode Island. In addition, we spent four mostly rain-soaked days driving to and from said beach town. This is an annual trek we make but I missed it last year, having used up most of my vacation earlier in the year. So this was my first beach vacation in two years.

What did I learn?
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1. Board Game: Brown Water Subs [Average Rating:5.92 Unranked]
Randy Cox
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Brown is the new White, which was the old Black...

What's up with brown bikinis? Seemed that about 1 out of 3 women were sporting these. I used to see a lot of black and, back in the Cheryl Tiegs days, a lot of white. But brown? That's such a ... yuck color, isn't it? So, for what it's worth, if you're packing for a beach trip and you want to stand out from the crowd, find a two-piecer in a color other than dark brown.
 
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2. Board Game: Greed [Average Rating:5.25 Overall Rank:14760]
Randy Cox
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$85 is the new $75, which was temporarily the new $50...

These record gasoline prices are troublesome for retailers, believe it or not. As I understand it, gas stations (or convenience stores or whatever) sell the juice for about 10 to 12 cents above their cost. The problem for them is that credit card companies charge a percentage of the total sale for using their card. As gas prices have gone up, their 10 to 12 cents goes away and they start selling at a loss.

But that's no skin off my nose. After all, I'm the consumer, not the retailer. But what is frustrating is that $50 automatic shutoff for gas when you pay at the pump. I noticed a few weeks ago that the limit had been bumped up to $75. And that's still not enough to fill the minivan's 24 gallon tank. Well, on this trip, at each of our stops, the limit had been bumped to $85, which still wasn't enough to fill the tank, but it's much appreciated.
 
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3. Board Game: Bike About [Average Rating:5.54 Unranked]
Randy Cox
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Bike sales are up, but people still don't get the savings issue...

Speaking of soaring gasoline prices, bicycle sales are up something like 20% or more nationwide. People hear that it's a good way to offset the high cost of gas.

Wake up, dumbasses. The idea is to ride the bike for local errands or to and from work to save on gas. But driving along the interstate highways, I saw at least 50 SUVs and minivans and motor homes with anywhere from two to four bicycles strapped to the back. Do these people really think they're going to get to their vacation spot and then ride for leisure? I don't think so. I sure didn't see any big family bike rides while in Narragansett. In fact, I saw only one biker in the town all week.

So, I ask, are people buying these bikes as tailgate ornaments?
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4. Board Game: National Trash [Average Rating:4.50 Unranked]
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Nobody wants to handle trash anymore...

I noticed this in the Stop 'n' Shop plaza up there, but I've noticed it everywhere since. Shopping centers and other retailers don't put trash cans out anymore. You used to see five or six, nicely spaced, at every strip mall. Hell, they used to be in every parking lot. Now, I hardly ever see an outdoor trash can at a multi-retailer spot and I even see many stores and even doctors offices with no trash can available. Even fast food joints usually put only one outdoor trash bin (where you can dump the trash from the last fast food stop).

Is there a huge decline in the number of trash collectors these days?
 
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5. Board Game: Calling All Cars [Average Rating:3.88 Unranked]
Randy Cox
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There are cars uglier than the PT Cruiser and Mini Cooper...

I always thought you couldn't get uglier than a PT Cruiser.

I was wrong. First off, I saw what must be the modern day equivalent to the station wagon (remember those)? I couldn't get close enough to make out a manufacturer name, but it was wagon-like (not like a minivan at all--regular sedan-style headroom). It was also angular and boxy. Not nearly as sleek as the wooden side panel station wagons of old.

But that wasn't the ugliest. I later saw a red-on-red recent vintage Monte Carlo. Everything was red. The lettering was red. The highlight strips were red. The logo medallions (which now substitute for hood ornaments) were red. The body was red. And not different shades, the same exact color. It was butt-ugly.

But the downright homeliest of all cars ever created is the stretch limo Hummer H2. I mean tanks Hummers shouldn't be allowed on the road for reasons other than their hideous looks, but this one has so many reasons never to be allowed in the company of humans. It is truly sickening.
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6. Board Game: Shifting Sands [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:1777]
 
Randy Cox
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Sand still sucks...

We used to go to the beach every summer. Twice. Once with my family and once with my cousin's family. We liked it. Then again, we were 10 years old or so. After reaching majority, I didn't go very often and when I did, I avoided sand and surf as much as possible. After all, who actually enjoys sandy feet and legs and beds and such?

Well, now that we have children who, like I once was, are too young to understand the nastiness of the beach, I'm doing it all over again. And I got sunburned feet and upper leg and lots and lots of sand. And it was in the kids bed and ultimately, ours. Double yuck. But at least the kids had fun in it.
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7. Board Game: Dough Nuts! [Average Rating:6.83 Unranked]
Randy Cox
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Northerners love their Dunkin' Donuts more than Southerners love their Krispy kremes...

Krispy Kremes were created not far from here and we always had them growing up. Most days (and every Sunday morning) people on the streets would sell them by the dozen-sized-box to people on their way to church or work or whatnot. Everybody ate them.

And most loved them, but I never did. What's so interesting about a lighter-than-air piece of bread soaked in sugar glaze? Nasty. Give me cake doughnuts any day.

And that's what is available up north. Just as everyone down in these parts grew up with KK's readily available everywhere, they seem to have Dunkin' Donuts (why can't they spell it right) everywhere up there. In fact, there's one inside the aforementioned Stop 'n' Shop and one right across the street from it! I guess the idea is to have one available every time you finish eating one, so you can reload.

Not that there's anything wrong with it. After all, they are cake doughnuts, but DD now seems to have more yeast ones than cake ones. What's the world coming to?
 
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8. Board Game: Party & Co [Average Rating:5.51 Overall Rank:12963]
Randy Cox
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Non-gamers really do prefer not to think and they like party games...

There aren't many games in the family housing up in Narragansett. There's a Scrabble set, a variant of Boggle, Rummikub, and Octiles (only Scrabble is even opened). We brought some kid games for them, but that was all for adults. Well, my sister-in-law couldn't stomach more Scrabble (plus, her husband doesn't like word games) and Rummikub sounded domino-like to her. She even said, "I want games I don't have to think to play."

Now, she's not one to shy away from thinking. I believe that's true of most people. Maybe it really is true that people exert their "thinking" towards work and household necessities and want to mostly shut it down for leisure activities. That's why so many sharp folk like "beach reading" novels.

Anyway, my sister-in-law took me to a department store to choose the best game there. Of the lot, I suggested Boggle, Taboo, and Yahtzee (those were the best). She went with Taboo and Yahtzee, having played both before. And we played Taboo and a lot of parlor What Were You Thinking, followed by...
 
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9. Board Game: Yahtzee [Average Rating:5.29 Overall Rank:15220]
Randy Cox
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Yahtzee has five strategies...

Yep, we played five-player Yahtzee.

Now, I like the game. Played it over a hundred times in 2003. But I thought there was only one strategy. However, we discovered that there were at least five strategies (or, maybe, "personalities"). My sister-in-law likes to fill her upper board as soon as possible, saying she can then breathe when she secures the 35 point bonus. She also doesn't like to use up the Chance slot early, saying it's suffocating to play without that safety valve.

Then we had other players who eschew the upper board altogether, going for high-scoring three- and four-of-a-kind and taking the full house as soon as it arrives. These are Lower Board players. They build a big tally on the bottom, hope for a Yahtzee, and then take a chance that they can secure the bonus at the top when they have no more "overflow" cells to fill on their sheet.

Some people play a combination of the two, going for the upper board on the low-scoring triplets and the lower board otherwise. Let's call these the In-Betweeners.

Another strategy in our game was the totally chaotic approach. Fill in stuff that makes no sense to me. I didn't understand this strategy.

Then there is the strategy I always employed in 2003--All Yahtzees All The Time. See, back then, we never cared who won an individual game. We were playing on a Palm Pilot (which is why they are unlogged here) and that tracked high scores. So all we tried to do was get lots of yahtzees for those 100 point bonuses (for 2nd and beyond five-of-a-kind). And we tallied some atrocious scores (over 600). Let me tell you that going for five-of-a-kind on every roll isn't a good strategy in single games of Yahtzee.

Our result was that the Lower Boarder won (301 points), followed by the Upper Boarder (260), the All-Yahtzee-All-The-Timer (212), the In-Betweener (211), and the Chaotic player (168).
 
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10. Board Game: Consensus [Average Rating:6.35 Overall Rank:10206]
Randy Cox
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South Carolina
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Consensus was not in the database...

The next day, I found myself in a high-end kid store (it had to have had the word "Brain" or "Imagination" or "Learning" in the store name). There were a few games (Apples to Apples, Enchanted Forest), etc that were fair and a lot of junky ones. But one that caught my eye was Consensus. I really wanted to buy it and give it a go that night, but I had to consult BGG first.

Lo and behold, it wasn't in the database (I have since corrected this). Now I wish I'd bought it, as it sounds like a good rendition of Apples to Apples (ie, without the "Know Thy Judge" or "Silly Choices" effects).
 
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11. Board Game: To The Far Shore [Average Rating:5.15 Overall Rank:13357]
Randy Cox
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Coastal folk equate cool weather with being half-naked

Everyone up there (the locals) was talking about the heat. It was about 90 degrees. That's a cold front down here in South Carolina these days. And they thought it was muggy. Get real.

But one day, we decided to go to the playground (inland from where we stayed). People warned us of the heat and said it would be brutal.

Well, I can tell you that it was no hotter at the playground (even in the sun) than on the beach. It's just that you're actually attired at the playground. If everyone wore long pants and a shirt at the beach, they'd be just as hot as they are at the playground. Similarly, if they all stripped down half-naked to go to the playground, they wouldn't complain.

So, to people who live on the coast, it's not cooler at the shore than inland. Yes, there is a warm "ocean breeze." There is also ridiculiously hot reflective heat on the white sand to overcompensate for that breeze. But all in all, it's just like it is away from the beach a few miles. Hot(ish). The only difference at the beach is that you're almost nude. So, in the future, please say "You'll be hot if you go anywhere other than the beach because you'll probably wear clothes there." It has nothing to do with the breeze, ocean, or sand.

By the way, the ocean water is too cold up there. It's probably below 80 degrees.
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