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This summer was a vacation summer for me...too many vacations, to be frank. I went to Washington D.C. in early early June, Colorado Springs, Col. in late June, and then headed up to Toronto, Canada, for the first few days of July. Of course, the only reason I went was so I could report to you loyal readers of what you can see and do in these cities, not for my own personal enjoyment...*ahem.* Anyway, onto my report.

Our nationís capital is located in Washington D.C. and Iíve been there...three times at last count. I was there when I was seven years old and again just two years ago, and most recently this past June. Now, although I could go ranting on (I know Iím good at that!) about the Washington Monument, the White House, and the Capitol building, instead Iím going to treat you to some of Washingtonís lesser known points of interest that donít make it in the headlines.

You usually donít hear anything about the Metro, which is the cityís subway. I know, you donít hear about any cityís subway system much, but the Metro is among those anonymous helpers. The reason you wonít hear anything about it is because it works so cleanly. Thereís no graffiti (unless you call an advertisement for The Magic Hour graffiti) , Iíve yet to see any crime in the area, and the only delay Iíve ever experienced there was trying to get out the door of a train when a Republican thatís the Speaker of the House (he shall go nameless) was blocking the door.

Another thing I have to complement our nationís capital on is their fine dining establishments. Thereís so much variety that can be delivered to your hotel room! But for the true dining connoisseur, you have to go out and experience the city. For this, I suggest The Orleans House. Itís a great restaurant that probably has the greatest salad bar in the city, the best prime rib steak you can get anywhere, and these really big shrimp that just...oooh! Itís that good!

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Another thing thatís never talked about Washington is the extremely high numbers of pre-teens and teenagers there! Bleah! Itís so annoying and terrible! And the bad thing is Iím a teenager too! Actually, most of the kids in the city are fine, but itís one particular group of people that are the bad part of the city. No, itís not the poor kids who donít get enough love from their parents to get decent meals, and itís not any gangstas that roam around (I didnít see many of them either) . Itís those blasted school tours that 12-year-olds go on! Aaaargh!

Now, I know many people that have been a part of these tours, and let me tell you, thereís probably nothing wrong with you. But please, hereís a checklist of things for group guides not to do when taking a group to the nationís capitol: 1) Donít get them all goofy looking, one color t-shirts with the schoolís name on it. 2) Keep the kids out of the Union Station eatery downstairs. Itís already crowded, so instead take them to a place thatís unique to the area. May I suggest The Orleans House, close by the Iwo Jima statue? Itís got great steak! 3) When sitting on the airplane, sit far enough away from the kids your chaperoning so that you donít have to whisper to the Flight Attendant for that Bloody Mary and Double Scotch. Heck, be proud that youíre old enough to drink alcoholic beverages! <--This is where the cutting ends.-->

Iíve had some very memorable experiences in Colorado Springs. I saw O.J. Simpson racing through downtown Los Angeles in his White Bronco because a Ďfamily member was sick.í *Ahem.* Iíve also seen the U.S. Olympic Training Camp where some of the United Statesís finest athletes train year round for their one shot at Olympic gold. So, it was a natural choice to go there on a vacation earlier this summer.

To set the tone of the city, picture the massive Rocky Mountains overlooking the city, with Pikes Peak being the center of attention. Many people dream about getting to stand at the summit of the peak and, thanks to the Pikes Peak Highway, itís possible for you to just hop in your car and take a nice little drive up to the top. Wait, I should maybe rephrase that last part for you. Itís more like taking a nerve-wracking, hair-raising experience as you hope and pray that you wonít accidentally drive off the edge of the road into the darkness of a thick forest.

Really, it wouldnít be so bad if the Pikes Peak people couldíve done something with the roads, and that thing is put up guardrails! For some unknown reason, the Park Service and the other owners of the road decided to not put up any guardrails along the road. Now you could blame this omission on the fact that the level of oxygen gets less and less as you go up in altitude, but the planners couldíve thought of it once they were down at a less adventurous altitude.

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Colorado Springs is also a great place for Air Force buffs to go, since itís the home of the U.S. Air Force Academy. The Academy is situated at the foot of the mountains, and it has a number of great facilities for the cadets to use. I even got to use one of them, and I have to tell you, they really keep those bathrooms spotless there!

One more great place in the Springs area is the restaurant called Edelweiss. Some of the best food there! Sauerkraut, bratwursts, and all kinds of other home-made German food. Plus, you can get ready to do a little Friday and Saturday Night Polka, since on those two days you have live German music. These guys have everything; the Tyrolean hat, the lederhŲsen, the knife, a guitar, and a great-sounding accordion! Itís all set in an old-style German house, and the ambiance it sets is superb! Man, Iím starting to sound like Siskel, arenít I? Really, though, it has some great food, and itís a place you should stop at whenever youíre in the area.

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Toronto can be described as this: New York City using the metric system. Itís just so big, with so many cool things in it, it has to be compared to The Big Apple. Of course, it can also be compared with Seattle since it has the CN Tower, which looks like a Space Needle rip-off, and even compared to Chicago because of the mass advertising everywhere you go. Itís become so bad that flowers on hillsides have been ďbeautifullyĒ pruned into the AT&T, Motorola, and Royal Bank of Canada logos. A true testament to the beauty of nature...*ahem.* Boy, I have a lot of phlegm in my throat today.

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Karl Becker, the author of all these articles, uses New Tricks for his writings.

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... This summer was a vacation summer for me...too m...

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