We made a pilgrimage to Waterloo, NY this weekend for a clothes-shopping excursion at the outlet mall. Not as much for ourselves as for our friend, who wanted to renew his entire wardrobe. What great timing too. Most of the outlet stores were offering sales of 30, 40, or even 50 percent off merchandise, in an attempt to help spur sagging sales figures. The fact that it was father's day weekend probably didn't hurt either.

We arrived at 1pm on Saturday, ate our lunch, and proceeded to wander from store to store until about 8:30, just before the mall closed. Seven hours! That's a lot of shopping! Junkii and I did okay – each buying a couple of pairs of shoes and a few small items – but most of our time was spent helping our co-traveler outfit himself in new couture.

Once we finished, we faced a new challenge: where to eat. None of us wanted another dose of food court (I had already had my Arby's fix at lunch). So despite our rumbly tummies, we decided to suck it up and wait for dinner until we drove back to Syracuse, where we spent the night.

A New Default Chain?
Now, we didn't want to spend a lot of time or money at a nice restaurant – nor were we dressed for fancy fare – so we elected to go to one of the many chain family restaurants on offer in the US. In the past, Junkii and I have had disastrous luck with such places. Friendly's, Chili's – they've all promised yummy food, but they've all delivered over-salted, over-sized, over-cheesed, otherwise unmemorable meals. We've nicknamed Appleby's Crappleby's because it's so dismal. Nope – from our experience, chain eateries tend to be sub-par at best. Still, they're quick and cheap, so we decided to try our luck at one we hadn't tried before (for food, anyway) – TGI Friday's.

Maybe it was because we were so hungry, but honestly the food was good. A little over-salted maybe, but we ordered off the "reasonable portion" menu and received a good-sized plate of tasty food. My crusted pork chop was tender and juicy, with a yummy sauce and some particularly good mashed potatoes. Junkii had a perfectly cooked (medium rare) 8oz steak that was like butter. We left satisfied, overjoyed that we now have a chain restaurant option that we can turn to in times of need. Huzzah.

Of course, there is another chain that we rely on. We visit one every time we go to the States, and this visit was no exception. Breakfast at IHOP! It was the highlight of day two, and really, there was nothing else to report on.

well, maybe one other thing…

No Go Hotels
Junkii and I now have a total of 4 hotels that we won't use in Syracuse anymore. we long ago concluded that the Red Roof Inn was dirty and the bed was too hard for another stay. And we found Motel 6 too smokey to bother going back. But we added two more to the list this weekend. Mel likes the Days Inn, but I find it feels old and dirty. I've always liked Super8, but on this trip Junkii found it gave him the creeps on cleanliness. So we agreed not to use either anymore.

Our co-traveler's experience this time also helped change my mind about Super8. His room had an odor so bad that he couldn't stay there. Unfortunately they had no extra space to move him to. He wound up sleeping in our room on the floor (well, on a couple of comforters and some sheets. It was a hard bed, but at least it didn't stink. They comped him his room in the end, but there's no call for such poor quality cleaning.

So far, the only hotel we agree on is the Quality inn. It's comfortable, clean, and with a friendly desk staff. That will probably be our default hotel. It's pricier, but it's worth the extra $20 a night for the peace of mind.

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