After morning had stretched its merry way for some time, I decided to make use of the car which had been generously offered up for my use. I was ready to tackle another mall. I'd been to this one on my previous visit and managed to emerge with jeans that actually, shock horror, fit me and looked quite good. I thought that I might be able to do it again. The rules had changed. I've gone up a trouser size in the last year, so perhaps the shops wouldn't cater for my larger size, but this was America, so I reckoned that I would probably find something. In the land of gigantic guts, mine doesn't look too out of place. There are bigger... sadly, I'm still high up on the scale of the trouser sizes.
So, off I headed. I had a map and directions and I was going a greater distance than I had to the other mall. This was going to be quite a trek and the possibility for disaster was all the more increased. However, I felt up to it. I had enough road experience in the states not to drive out of my lane, nor forget how to go correctly round corners and junctions and stuff like that. I'd also a reasonable grasp of the rules of navigating their road system. I could do it. And indeed, I did. I don't want to build up some tension here about some bizarre incident involving me getting hopelessly lost. Sure, I took one wrong turning, but I dealt with it, and it was on the way back from the place, so I had already done the hard part. Probably.
The trip to Flemington was quite successful. It's a strange place. It looks a bit like a ghost-town that the locals have converted into a factory outlet mall. It was like they got the council of town elders together and said "Well, it looks like that thar gold mine has dried up. This town's history... unless we can find a way of selling designer-label clothing for slightly less than the big shops, though still a bit more than it's really worth." While I was there, I got myself some lunch and did my best to try to keep out of the snow. Ah yes. I'd forgotten that detail. It was very very cold during my visit to the states and I was driving through snow for some of the way. The best way to describe the behaviour of this so-called 4 wheel drive vehicle in snow was "floaty". I was using it in 2 wheel drive mode at the time, but it still scared the living doo-doo out of me when it started to misbehave at low speeds. I kept control and maybe I secretly enjoyed the adrenaline rush as the words I was sent into the snow with rang in my ears - "Try not to prang it.".
Keeping out of the snow in a mall that looks like a small town is done by visiting more shops than you plan to. I went into one kitchen gadget shop for a brief respite from the elements and found nothing at all that could justify my presence there. I tried. It just wasn't for me. If they'd had some cool sort of gadget, that would have been great... but no. They had nothing which made me go - "Oooh - I'll have one of those, that will make my life more interesting/better/easier/whatever". In fact, it took a few extra weeks before I experienced such an emotion - I bought a special device in Newcastle which you place over a can and it drains it for you - it even fits over lots of different sorts of can. That's useful! They didn't have one in Flemington that day.
I bought some jeans and a couple of shirts. They'll get good use. It was a successful trip. As I was driving to the mall (yes, I know this story is getting a bit out of order) I received a phone call asking for tickets for The Musical!. This call was answered as I drove, meaning that I drove without regard for my safety, as I didn't have the hands-free with me. Worse than that, the call arrived at the critical moment where I left one road and joined the one towards the mall. Luckily, I was on the right route and had no thinking to do to find my way to the place I was going to. Unluckily, my distraction meant that I had no specific memory of exactly how to retrace my steps from the local roads of the mall and its surrounds to the main roads which led back to my temporary lodgings. Luckily there weren't many options to try to get back and I got it sorted after a couple of goes.
Being away from home is all about receiving calls about shows. It's great.
A quiet night in was experienced back at the ranch on my return. This was probably best; the return journey home was going to be quite engaging and I didn't need it to come on the back of some high-octane partying. Anyway, the purpose of the visit was to see some of the domestic bliss of my friends and this was amply achieved. This domestic bliss was soon to be altered by the presence of a baby, so it was nice to see it in its no-kids-yet calm-before-storm.