Saturday, August 6, 2016

Audio Book Review: A Walk in the Woods

I recently took my aunt on a whirlwind tour up to Devil's Tower - in other words we did it all in one day. We left my home in Cheyenne at 6 am, got to Devil's Tower about noon (having stopped for breakfast and to look in at a museum in Newcastle, Wyoming), and got home about 9 pm, after having made a stop for dinner.

It was a fun day, but there's no denying it was a long day.

On the way up, we listened to the last four out of five discs of the audio version of BIll Bryson's A Walk in the Woods. (The audio book belonged to my mother and she has a habit of taking the discs out of their case and not putting them back. In this case, disc one was missing.)

(Paperback edition, 1998)

I found the book enjoyable and very interesting, not the least because it gave a history of the Appalachian Trail and also of the ... one might say "mismanagement" of it by the Park Service. I made a mental note to myself that when I got home I would check out the print book so that I could find all these mentions of "mismanagement" and history, and use them as starting points for an article I would write. (No, the Appalachian Trail comes nowhere near Wyoming, but I write articles about anything that catches my attention!)

When I got to the library (the Laramie County Public Library, located at 2200 Pioneer Ave, Cheyenne, WY 82001) I thought to I have the time to read the book? Why not check out the audio version (my aunt had taken the discs we had with her when she returned home.)
I compromised and checked out both the print version and the audio version. On the way home (I live about 5 miles south of the city of Cheyenne proper) I decided to listen to the first disc of the audio book.

And I got a shock.

It wasn't the same narrator.

And I didn't care for this guy's voice at all. His voice was a bit too high, and he kept trying to do the voices of different characters with different accents. When he started talking as Stephen Katz with what sounded to me like a "dumb Southerner's" voice, I turned off the disc.

When I reached home I did some research. The unabridged version of A Walk in the Woods is narrated by Rob McQuay.

Here's a link to that audio book, offered through Audible, I believe:

The version my aunt and I had listened to was an abridged version (still taking up 5 discs) and was narrated by Bill Bryson himself.

I thought Bryson did a much better job with the narration. He didn't try to change voices for each character, although he did seem to lighten it a little when talking as a female character, and his voice was lower and thus did not get on my nerves.

I don't know where my mother got this abridged version, because it doesn't seem to be on sale through Amazon, even in a used version.

By the way, A Walk in the Woods was made into a movie in 2015, starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte. It's changed from the book, of course, and I see that it did not get very good reviews.
I won't be renting it to view, but here's a link if interested:

The soundtrack was put out by Varese Sarabande:

But what about the (audio) book itself?

Well, Bill Bryson is the protagonist, and the book is autobiographical. He has returned to the United States from England, where he'd lived with his family for 20 years. He conceives a desire to walk the entire Appalachian Trail (which takes six months, if you're extremely fit and extremely well prepared) and recruits a friend, Stephen Katz, to walk the trail with him.

They have adventures, of a sort (Bryson talks about the dangers of meeting bears in Chapter 2, but they don't actually meet any bears, just lots of people, some of them annoying) but a lot of the book has to do with the history of the trail, and of how the Park Service manages the trail.
Here's part of what Bryson has to say about the AT:

"...and there was a more compelling reason to go. The Appalachians are the home of one of the world's great hardwood forests-the expansive relic of the richest, most diversified sweep of woodland ever to grace the temperate world - and that forest is in trouble. If the global temperature rises by 4 degrees Centigrade over the next fifty years, as is evidently possible, the whole of the Appalachian wilderness below New England could become savanna. Already trees are dying in frightening numbers, the elms and chestnuts are long gone. the stately hemlocks and flowering dogwoods are going, and the red spruces, Fraser firs, mountain ashes and sugar maples may be about to follow. Clearly, if ever there was a time to experience this singular wilderness, it was now."
I highly recommend reading the book or tracking down the abridged version of it narrated by Bryson. You can try the McQuay version...perhaps it wouldn't have been so bad if I hadn't heard Bryson's version first - I leave that for you to decide!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Cheyenne Restaurant Review: Olive Garden

On Monday, July 25, 2016, my Aunt and I went to the Olive Garden in Cheyenne.

The address of this Olive Garden is 1536 Dell Range Boulevard, its phone number is 307-632-2411, its hours are 11:00 am to 10:00 pm Sunday through Thursday, and 11:00 am to 11:00 pm Friday and Saturday. Its webpage where you can view the menu and order online is:

Dell Range Boulevard runs east-west and is kind of a "main drag." On this road you can find a Walmart and Sam's Club adjacent to each other, as well as a K-Mart and a Target (all on the left side of the road if you're heading east). There are also a variety of restaurants on either side of the road, mostly chain restaurants such as Chili's, Applebees, Olive Garden of course, Red Lobster (adjacent to a Barnes & Noble), Chipotle and Qdoba, Wendy's, McDonald's (inside Walmart) and Subway. There's also a Steamboat's and a Guadalahara's.

It had probably been 4 years or more since I'd been to this Olive Garden, and I was appalled when our Greeter seated us to see that there was a little computer screen on each table.

According to the Greeter, we could play games on this machine, summon our waitress, order our food and pay for it if using a credit card.

Why was I appalled? Well, in the first place, if you can order your food right from a computer screen on your table, what do you need with a wait person? (Well - but of course the human touch. You can't ask a computer if a certain dish is good!) So eventually these little machines are going to get rid of wait staff, and all we will have will be bus persons bringing out our orders to us.

Then there's the fact that there were games to be played on it. It's bad enough that families don't really have any "face time" if I may so term it, at dinner anymore. Kids bring their electronic games and play them, ignoring any and all adults. Adults have their phones and will sit texting while waiting for their food... and now the kids can fight about who gets to play games on this little computer!

My Aunt and I didn't even try to use the thing. We wanted to deal with a real, live waitress.

I ordered the Rosemary Garlic Chicken. First my Aunt and I were served with a salad, and I ate mine accompanied by one of their delicious bread sticks. I love transferring a forkful of iceberg lettuce to my mouth and then taking a bite of a bread stick. The flavors and textures complement each other nicely.

At Olive Garden a huge bowl of salad is brought out, with individual bowl-like plates for each person, and the guests serve themselves, and can request the server to grate Parmesan over their salad if they like. You can also request their signature salad dressing on the side.

I forgot I was going to document the meal until halfway through my delicious salad!

I love carmelized mushrooms and especially carmelized onions. So when I read the description for Rosemary Garlic Chicken, which included carmelized garlic cloves, I thought I'd try it. I was disappointed with the garlic cloves...not quite what I expected.

Presentation of the Rosemary Garlic Chicken

But it was an easy matter to scrape them off and then eat the chicken and mashed potatoes, which was delicious. And served piping hot.

The ambiance was disturbed midway through our meal by the wailing of an unhappy toddler - a hazard in most restaurants. Other than that, the decor was typical Olive Garden, the tables and booths neat an clean, and it was extremely busy, perhaps because we were in the middle of Cheyenne Frontier Days.

The Greeter and wait staff were friendly, and my aunt and I enjoyed the meal.

Friday, July 1, 2016

About the Miniscule Guide: Wyoming

This blog will thoroughly cover my travels throughout Wyoming: the Cowboy State, "like no place on Earth."

Wyoming has the least population of all the 50 states, but is the tenth largest by area. So there's lots of driving to be done in between towns, most of which are pretty small - but are worth visiting for their ambiance and their history.

Join me on my journeys throughout "The Equality State."

What is the background photo?

This Welcome to Wyoming sign is at the junction between Colorado and Wyoming on US Route 85. In the distance on the left is the Ponnequin Wind Facility, which is located in Colorado.

Do not confuse US Route 85, which runs north-south in the "Mountain and Plains" region of the United States with the interstate,  I-85 which runs northeast-southwest through the "Southeastern United States."

Below is the US Route 85 route, in red:

Public domain United States map from Wikicommons