Quest Adventure Gaming

monroe_GuestAG-5586“You’re all we’ve got. Make us proud, team, and bring our ship home. Reed out.”

“Who is this Admiral Reed anyway? It doesn’t matter, he’s in charge of the Third Solar Fleet, and he’s given us a mission. Let’s get it done.”

Here begins a difficult, intense and fun adventure into rescuing the USSC 308 Wayward Storm. It’s all part of Quest Adventure Gaming, a fully immersive and exciting gaming / roleplaying experience, now open in Watkins Glen.

Unlike many of the other “escape room” attractions available in central New York, this one (and those to come) are story driven with a very human element. Personal video logs, belongings in the lockers – even their garbage give it a reality and personality that must be experienced.monroe_GuestAG-5582

And the space adventure is only the first of several to come.

Have I experienced the adventure? No. I don’t want to without a crew. I have teen grandchildren though… They might make a formidable crew. The experience is appropriate for 2 to 6 participants.

monroe_GuestAG-5593Alex Richmond is the creator of Quest. He is a fascinating combination of computer geek, historian, traveler and visionary. Oh, and carpenter too. The set of the Wayward Storm is neither shiny plastic or rough lumber – it is a well thought out and crafted environment set, complete with lockers, touch screens, the main viewer, and controls of every kind appropriate to the story.

The background noise, ship sounds, cooling fans and a general feeling of motion make the experience even more real. With the slightest effort, you can believe you are actually on the ship…

I had the pleasure of spending some time with Alex at Quest, going behind the curtain and seeing what actually goes on. Cameras are placed in the adventure room so Alex can keep an eye on the action – and even offer a hint or two if the players get hopelessly stuck. They are never completely alone.

Behind some other curtains are the beginnings of the next adventure room. Watching the excitement on Alex’s face as he described the process and his vision led me to believe the result will be monroe_GuestAG-5589extraordinary!

Hosting adventures is in Alex’s blood, having led many groups to Europe. He has a special fondness for Rome, where even more history is being discovered every day. He uses his extensive knowledge and fertile imagination to create adventures that exercise the mind and make use of your powers of observation.

The next project will be “Sweet Nightmares”, just about as far from space as you can get but just as intense. The set is just now under construction. I can’t wait to see the completed project!

What does the future hold? I suspect it’s large…

You can find Quest Adventure Gaming on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or at

monroe_GuestAG-5579Or visit them at 607 N Franklin St in Watkins Glen. Plan your next adventure. After all, it’s within reach…

The Beautiful Villa Roma Resort

This past week I was one of a team running the Professional Photographers Society of NYS annual convention FocusNY 2018. This was the second time we’ve had our convention there, and I have a few comments about the entire experience.

First comment, “Wow!”monroe_Villa Roma Entrance

The resort is located outside of Calicoon NY, south of Rt 17, about two and a half hours south and east of Lansing. Our purpose was of course, to run a convention. The sales staff and management made arrangements easier than I could have dreamed, with rates absolutely reasonable and service excellent beyond expectation.

The last day, we had a problem with a connection between a presenter’s laptop and the projector. An AV tech (pert of our group) and I went to the lobby and asked a gentleman who looked in charge for help. “We’re in a pinch” I said.

monroe_Villa Roma StaircaseHis response: “Well then let’s get you un-pinched”. Within moments he provided for us a 55” TV that served the purpose wonderfully.

This was the quality of experience provided by Villa Roma throughout the convention.

I apologize for the lack of photos – I was involved in running the event so was otherwise occupied. The good news is that the images on the web site,, are accurate. It’s a beautiful place.

Ok, you don’t give a crap about a convention; you just want a cool place to take your family for a vacation.

This is it.

The accommodations are upper end. We had a suite with the most comfortable bed and pillows that I have ever experienced at a hotel. That’s saying something. We’ve been to a LOT of hotels. The suites and many of the rooms have kitchens, full size refrigerators and ovens, again, way past expectation.

My favorite spot in the hotel is the indoor swimming area, perfect for relaxing during the rare unoccupied moment. The hot tub is big enough for a board meeting, but small enough to enjoy the company.

What to do at Villa Roma?

Golf is the first thing you see, but there’s bowling alleys, stables with many horses for trail riding, Olympic sized playgrounds, an ice rink, fitness center, programs run just for the kids, two night clubs, a salon for that necessary massage after the day’s activities and even an OTB parlor.

Located in the Catskills, there are excursions for white water rafting and every other kind of recreation monroe_Villa Roma 1the region offers.

And don’t worry about where to eat. There is a huge main dining room, a Starbucks, café, Ice cream parlor and pizzeria inside the main building, plus more restaurants at the pool and golf course, open seasonally.

Ok, I’ll admit, I’m gushing a little. It’s deserved. The only thing “less than perfect” was the buffet dinner in the Roman Garden Café – the lemon chicken was a little blah – but everything else, including the cannoli for desert was great. The wait staff, housekeepers, desk staff and everyone else were engaging, helpful and showed a uniformly excellent sense of humor.

All-inclusive packages are available for those of you that go on vacation to leave worries behind.

Villa Roma is that place – to leave all your cares.

Visit their web site, and look around.

Then go there and play.

Black Willow Winery

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Black Willow” is the name of our farm. We raise a few goats and make a little cheese. The farm is named for the huge, ancient black willow trees that grow behind our house. It’s a very peaceful “natural” area.

Imagine our surprise, on leaving the Renaissance Faire, to see a booth advertising “Black Willow Winery”, and offering tastings. Our first thought was that with the name “Black Willow”, there folks must be ok, so we introduced ourselves. We were greeted warmly by John Little and chatted while tasting their wines and their excellent meads.

monroe_Black Willow-4898This year was the third time we’d encountered them at the Faire, and determined that we should meet these fine folks at their family owned and operated Lake Ontario Winery.

Being a Finger Lakes native, I had become a bit of a snob about Finger Lakes wine, and almost completely unaware of the wine trails in western New York. Black Willow Winery is about 20 miles east of Niagara Falls within an effortless walk of Lake Ontario, and part of the Niagara Wine Trail. It is a fair hike from Lansing – it took us 3 plus hours to get home – but very worth the trip.

I’m not so much of a snob any more. Just sayin’…

We arrived at the winery in the early afternoon. The storefront was all decked out for Halloween with cheery spiders, webs, pumpkins and all the stuff that says, “Good Time Inside”. Greeted by Ashley, one of the extended family who work at the winery, we felt like friends that just hadn’t met yet. She is an outgoing young lady and enthusiastic about the winery.

monroe_Black Willow-4902My first surprise was the variety of products they had for sale; wine and mead of course, but Artisan oils, vinegars and designer chocolates that appeared to be miniature works of edible art. I couldn’t taste everything, but the chocolates are high on my list next time.

The center of the tasting room is set up like a lounge for enjoying the wine and quiet conversation, surrounded by the whimsical chaach that shows the delightful sense of humor of the proprietor.

The wines are good too – this is, after all, a winery – and a meadery. A few bottles of their Reisling followed us home. Reislings seem to pick up the attitude of the winemaker, and Black Willow’s Semi Dry is serious with an aftertaste of playfulness; a feeling that keeps revealing itself to you even after it has left your pallet with memories of gentle fruit flavors.

“Odin’s Nectar” is the smoothest mead I’ve ever tasted. Not flavored by anything but the honey, it is best served warm and feels like a snuggly blanket from the inside out. Their other meads have flavorings and are best served chilled, like Valkyrie’s Lure with peach and cinnamon. Yes, both followed us home as well.

Black Willow Winery is the ongoing dream and passion of Cynthia West-Chamberlain and Michael D. Chamberlain, and is only 7 years old. For such a relatively new winery to have won awards such as New York’s Meadery of the year, and gold medals in state, national and international competitions speak to the enthusiasm and attention to detail that the owners and staff pay to their product.

Their nephew John Little gave me the “backstage tour”, explained both the history and the future growth plans. For instance, they used to use exclusively local honey, but the producers couldn’t keep up with Black Willow’s demand, so most of their honey now comes from larger producers in PA. The Diamond grapes are grown at the winery, with other varieties coming from the finger lakes and other regions within the state.

Recently they have begun hosting and catering celebrations at the winery which can be formal and elegant, or casual and intimate at their impressive fire area backed with boulder sized stones. It’s a beautiful place to enjoy the mead and gaze at the fire.
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I’ve just touched the surface of Black Willow Winery’s operation and offerings. You need to see it for yourself. Make a day trip to Niagara Falls and visit a winery or two (or three) on your way home. But make SURE that Black Willow is on your list. It is a bit of a trip, but is very much “Within Reach”!
phone: 716-439-1982

5565 West Lake Road
Burt, NY 14028