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Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips: PART 2

8 Sep

dillons_logoOkay…so I know this post is ridiculous but it is near and dear to my heart so here we go!  As my constant readers know, I have been on a quest to find out why there are no Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips in Wichita, KS which you can read about HERE.  I contacted my local grocer, Walmart, local convenience stores, and of course…Lay’s.  So far I have received a generic response from QuikTrip and a personalized response from Dillon’s.  I wanted to share the response from Dillon’s because it is a lesson in A+ PR any business should practice.  Customer’s want a response when they contact a brand – this was one of the finer responses I have received:

Dear Ryan:

Thank you for contacting Dillon’s Customer Connect regarding Lay’s Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips. I appreciate the request to stock this item in your local store. There are many factors that determine which products are available to and sold in our stores– shelf space, product demand, supplier availability, and vendor contracts are a few. Special order forms are always available at the customer service desk as a courtesy to accommodate specific item requests.

I have shared your request with the store manager at our Central store as our office does not have access to inventory or ordering information. (I chose this store because it was the location you indicated in your email, if you would like to request this product at a different store, please let me know!) Your store manager has the ability to check inventory at other stores and can advise if the product can be stocked and/or special ordered.

Your second option would be to contact our Special Request Team who can see if they can order this item for a one time pickup at your store. This, however, cannot guarantee the product will be stocked in our stores as there are many factors that affect the availability. If you would like to make a special request please contact 1-855-345-5696.

I hope that you find this information helpful. My name is Sara and if I can be of further assistance, please simply respond to this email or call.

Thank you for shopping with us.


Kroger Customer Connect 
The Kroger Family of Stores 

Having spent a week with Cox Communication’s “Help” department trying to get my phone to work and having the Royals game drop out twice during two different games…it was lovely to get some real customer service!  Seriously, don’t get COX cable…they are terrible.  I got very excited and was ready to call the Special Request Team when a co-worker posted on my Facebook timeline:


Walmart!  On the west side!  Of course the west side!  Now I have to see if I can get the east side location to carry them…though I have a thing about Walmart and try to do everything possible to avoid it thanks to years of spending hours there for business…though if they stocked them at the Walmart Neighborhood Market I would be fine with going there.

My co-worker brought them to work today and as I type to you…oh constant reader…my fingers are encrusted with sticky vinegar and salt as my roof burns ever so slightly from the greatest chip on the planet:  Lay’s Salt & Vinegar!  As well as I type, I realize that all this time I could have bought the chips from Amazon.  Either way…I feel like life is all that and a bag of chips today!


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Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips

3 Sep

8214271_origWhen I first moved back to Wichita, KS five years ago I was convinced my wife was messing with me when she told me she couldn’t find Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips at the grocery store.  It was impossible.  Dillon’s, the Death Star of grocery stores, had everything in their “Super Stores.”  Heck, if I can buy patio furniture and toothpicks…I should be able to get Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips too.  The next trip to the store my wife Kate and I went together and divided the list to save time.  “I’ll find the chips!”  I exclaimed, which was only appropriate seeing as I am the certified snacker in the family.  I huffed it over to the chip aisle and was shocked to find there were no Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips!  I snagged an employee and they pointed out the next aisle over.  An entire half an aisle dedicated solely to Lay’s Potato Chips!  Jackpot!  Kate had clearly done what I had done and only gone to the chip aisle and not looked for…hey…wait…there are no Salt & Vinegar Chips here!  I flagged down the employee and asked what the deal was.  “Maybe they were discontinued?”  He explained.  Then he offered me Cape Cop Chips or Pringles instead.

I think I cried.

Five long years later and I can tell you that Dillon’s does not carry Lay’s Salt & Vinegar, nor does Walmart, or Target, or QuickTrip, or any other place I’ve looked…and I’ve looked.  Co-workers claim to have seen them and bought them in stores but I am sure they got them in Kansas City, other towns, or the individual bags instead of the full-size.  If so, there is a salt & vinegar conspiracy going on and I want to know who’s behind it!!!  Labor Day Weekend was the final straw for me…my taste buds yearned for them so I tweeted a few retailers who replied with directions on how to contact their complaints departments.  I kindly obliged and urged Dillon’s (among others) to carry this fruit of the gods.  However, I felt the most energy should be focused on the source, so I wrote this letter to Frito-Lay:


To Whom It May Concern at FRITO-LAY NORTH AMERICA, INC.,

When I first moved back home to Wichita, Kansas five years ago I was convinced that your company had discontinued LAY’S® Salt & Vinegar Flavored Potato Chips due to the fact that I was unable to find them in any grocer or retailer throughout the Wichita area:  A sad proposition.  Upon traveling to Kansas City I was delighted to find the beloved chips on the shelves of a grocery store there and ceremoniously purchased what can only be referred to as “a boat-load” for my return to Kansas’s largest city.  Armed with the knowledge that my favorite chips in the world had not been discontinued, I set forth on an epic chip-quest to find them in Wichita.  Alas, my quest failed and instead of feasting on the tangy nectar of vinegar and salt clad potato chips…I was forced to swallow the fact that there were no LAY’S® Salt & Vinegar Flavored Potato Chips in Wichita, Kansas.

I have written letters to Dillon’s, QuikTrip, Walmart, Target, and other area retailers of chips.  In five years, I have yet to get LAY’S® Salt & Vinegar Flavored Potato Chips into Wichita.  I have been presented with other salt & vinegar options, but none of them suit my taste.  Must I be shunned to ingest detestable and harrowing options such as Cape Cod Potato Chips or the admissible Pringles when all I yearn for is to gormandize the contents of that light blue bag which haunts my dreams?

Snacking has become…spiritless.

You see, LAY’S® Salt & Vinegar Flavored Potato Chips has the perfect ratio of vinegar to salt.  Other charlatans veil their so-called chips in salt to besiege one’s tongue to eat more out of necessity, while LAY’S® Salt & Vinegar Flavored Potato Chips create a sense of longing to masticate more from the transcendence of flavor.  In layman’s terms:  Your chips burn the roof of my mouth from the vinegar and that’s the flavor I’m looking for because I associate it with a happy childhood.

As I’m sure you know Wichita was home to Pizza Hut under the PepsiCo brand from 1977-1997.  Being born in Wichita in 1979, LAY’S® was a part of my upbringing ‘til I left for college to pursue my dreams.  Now, a man of restaurateur ilk and persuasion, I have returned to Wichita with my culinary insight and sophisticated salt & vinegar chip palette.  These mountebanks being peddled to Wichita’s citizens is a wrongdoing of epic chip proportions and must be rectified forthwith before LAY’S® Salt & Vinegar Flavored Potato Chips become a forgotten memory in our nation’s heartland.

Please, I beseech you to bring LAY’S® Salt & Vinegar Flavored Potato Chips back to Wichita before their awesomeness is forgotten.  The last five years have taught me that once you pop…you can stop.  However, we can’t stop popping without your support.  Help me in the fight against poorly salted spuds and return peace to the taste buds of hundreds of thousands…or at least just me.

Your brother in alkali marinated fried potatoes,

Ryan W. Gates


Now…we wait.  If you want to join in my crusade of kindness to return Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips to Wichita, please let me know.  If you find them in Wichita, please let me know where.  If you are visiting Wichita, please bring some with you and share with me.

Potato Chips

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Happy Birthday Dad

15 Aug

Happy Birthday Dad…you old fart.

With my dad on Basin Bay at age 13

With my dad on Lake George, 1992.  We both had hair back then.

Grandma Dawn

5 Aug

DawnLookoutOn Saturday I stood between my wife Kate and my first cousin once removed Barbara as my grandmother Dawn was laid to rest.  Surrounding the gravestone was my family including my sister, my cousins, my uncle, my parents, and those conducting the memorial service.  It was supposed to be a cold rainy day, but Dawn was too nice to have a funeral on a grey day…so the clouds cleared and let the sun beat down as crystal clear blue skies opened up overhead.  My black suit jacket stuck to my back, Kate squeezed my hand, and Barbara read a poem her daughter had written as Dawn Kathleen Preston was finally free from the confines of her body.  Tears rolled down my face hidden behind sunglasses as I stared at that little marble green urn and came to terms with the fact that I was never going to see one of my most favorite people in the world again.  Grandma Dawn was gone.

I’m not much of one to read deep into things but funerals make you question the meaning of life and the happenings of the world around you.  It didn’t rain a single drop during the 48 hours I was in Bolton Landing, NY though it was supposed to be riddled with thunderstorms.  Aside from my flight to Albany being delayed by 3 hours, travel was smooth.  The lake was warm, the air was warm, the water wasn’t rough, and I got a mini vacation…as odd as that sounds…but I like to think that was the purpose of this trip.  I know Saturday, August 2 is a day I will never forget…but it is a day I’ll remember for good reasons.  The service afterward was conducted by my uncle and father in which they set the tone by telling funny stories from my grandmother’s life and our family’s trolley car diner.  They got the whole place laughing hysterically and quickly tears of sadness turned into tears of joy as we celebrated her life instead of mourning her death.  Then, people from the town of Bolton started standing up and adding their two cents…and it was the same message over and over…Dawn had touched their lives in some way that had brought them there that day in love of her.  She was simply put, “A nice lady.”

She was never mean, she always carried a smile on her face, she was generous, she was loving, she gave hugs and kisses, and she cooked for every single person in that town at some point or another whether it be from the diner days or baking later in life.  Her pancakes are still a well guarded family secret.  Her love was felt by all…and if you were forced to think of something bad about her you’d find yourself with nothing to say.  She was just a good person who left a wake of happiness in her path.

2014-08-01 14.11.21My sadness came for my dad and my uncle…watching them in the cemetery as their mom went to rest next to their father Bill and their sister Jeanine, both whom died far too young.  Jeanine was 53 when she died of lung cancer and I never smoked a single cigarette since.  Bill was 69 when he passed, the same age my uncle is today.  Barbara clenched my hand and I couldn’t help but realize she and her brother Bob were the last of that generation.  Dawn was my last grandparent, outliving my mother’s mother by 18 years.  18 years I got to bask in the sole adoration of one grandparent…Grandma Dawn.  I was 17 when my maternal grandmother Florence passed away and 10 when both my grandfathers passed away in the same year.  I was a child then.  Now…as an adult, the full consequences and emotions were apparent to me as I tried to process it…and I couldn’t.  It was easier when I was 10…I just cried and cried and cried.  When I was 17 I lamented for time I should have spent.  At 35…I just keep thinking about that green marble urn and I don’t know what to do.  I didn’t know what to do.  So when the skies cleared and the sun came out I did what I think Grandma Dawn would have wanted me to do…I took a little vacation.

Kate and I ate sushi together in Chicago, drank to my grandmother’s memory at 30,000 feet, dined on lobster with family at the club, and plunged into the dark waters of Lake George for a skinny dip on Friday.  Saturday we took an early morning waverunner ride to Huddle Bay, caught up with old friends and family, swam in the lake together, drank together, had a big boisterous meal together with friends, and again…plunged into the cool waters of Lake George to cap off the day.  Sunday we had a big family breakfast, we swam off the dock, went for a long boat-ride, and went to my favorite spot on Lake George: the buoys off of Commission Island.  Kate and I explored the tiny islands to the north, swam along the point, stacked rocks to make a structure above water in the middle of the lake, swam the channel, and enjoyed the company of our family.  It is one of the things we didn’t get to do during our planned vacation to the lake 2 weeks prior.  It was a blessing.  It was like desert.  Its my Heaven on Earth.

My hand clutched a tiny rock I snagged from Commission Island Point as Kate and I ate sushi at Wicker Park in O’Hare before the final flight home.  We took our time during our 2 hour and 45 minute layover to savor each bite, sip our drinks, and enjoy our “date” before returning to our lives as parents with jobs, responsibilities, and needs.  Grandma, however you want to take this, gave Kate and I a date weekend…and it was lovely.  I still see that green marble urn in my mind, I know what I whispered to it before leaving the cemetery, and I know it hasn’t quite sunk in…and that’s okay.  My only fear is that when my father processes it, I won’t be able to be there to hug him the way he has hugged me so many times throughout my life since we are 1,500 miles apart right now.  Mom is there.  My sister is there.  My uncle is there.  Friends are there.  I just wish I could be there, to comfort him the way only he can comfort me.  So I woke up my 1-year old son Dodge on Sunday night and showered him with kisses before handing him to my wife to do the same.  I then climbed into bed with my 3-year old son Max and hugged him as tight as he’d let me hug him while stroking his soft blonde hair and whispering over and over, “Dada loves you, Dada will never stop loving you…”  Then Kate took my hand and led me to bed where I slept for 10 hours…and I dreamed Grandma was standing on the boat waving while I swam around Commission Island Point.

DawnBeach“Look at me Grandma!” I shouted as I stood on a rock.  She waved back and gave that sheepish smile of hers.  I slipped on the rocks and caught my balance, Grandma gave me her look of goofy surprise.  “You can see so deep today!”  I shouted back, then dove into the water.  My ears should have popped at about the 12 foot mark but they didn’t and I swam past the point where I normally turn around til I touched the bottom.  Rocky and smooth.  Calm.  Peaceful.  I placed my feet on the rocks and pushed upward toward the surface and emerged victorious!  “Grandma!  I touched the…”  But she wasn’t there anymore.  Just a warm summer day with blue skies, perfect water, and my favorite swimming spot.

I can’t wait to get back there next year and go for a swim.  I discover something new every year.  It is a special place to Kate and I and for some unexplained reason other than that dream…it will always be a place for me to go and connect with my grandmother, perhaps because it is a better way to remember her than thinking about that small green marble urn.  I don’t know where she is, but for me…I think she’s on the boat some days waving to me when she’s not drinking a beer on the couch or jabbing Grandpa Bill in the ribs for saying something embarrassing.  So…no “So Long Grandma.”  How about, “See you next summer.”

Me and Grandma, 1980.

Me and Grandma, 1980.

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Hidden Waterfalls of Bolton Landing New York

30 Jul

After moving away from Lake George for work…I often find myself as a tourist in my own town when I return home to Bolton Landing, NY.  When I am home, I usually find myself giving visiting friends and family tours of the lake, Bolton Landing, and the surrounding areas.  As a kid we walked everywhere, our boats required oars to move, and gas was less than a buck.  Nowadays it has become expensive to getaway, that is unless you are smart about how you travel.  With today’s economic changes, consider taking advantage of alternative transportation opportunities like carpooling, talking public transit, or peer-to-peer ride sharing like RelayRides to have a great vacation without breaking the bank.  Vacation destinations can also be exploring hidden gems in your own back yard which in my case, is Bolton Landing, NY.  While some places will always be private and special to me, here are a few waterfalls and nature spots you might not find on the tourism maps when visiting Bolton Landing:


  • Short drive
  • Park/walk

brook-at-melody-manorIf you haven’t visited the Bolton Historical Museum, you should.  I like learning about small towns, especially when I spend time there or have work to do there.  In the museum there is some information about my family and how we helped settle the area along with some amazing artifacts and stories from over 200 years of Bolton’s founders and inhabitants.  The Gates family settled Huddle Bay (“The Huddle”) and remnants of our farm and property are still there today such as the 1800’s homestead, trails, and Gates Falls.  Gates Falls is tucked back behind Melody Manor and often confused with the overflow fall just south of Villa Napoli Restaurant.  However, if you follow the sound of the Huddle Brook behind the restaurant you will come to a beautiful 15 foot waterfall that cascades down to a shallow pebble wading pool before feeding into the lake.  The north side of the falls is owned by Melody Manor and the south side is private property.  The lake is everyone’s to share.  This little waterfall can be walked to easily and there is parking 100 feet away in the Melody Manor parking lot.


  • Boat ride
  • Anchor/3 mile hike

4747044592_cd3b8b975d_zThis is no mystery and every local or regular visitor knows it is there…but it is still a must!  By boat go to Log Bay and drop anchor in the shallow sandy waters.  Be sure to lock up your boat and secure your anchor.  You’ll want shoes so either wear water shoes or wade in while holding your hiking shoes.  There are trails on both the west and east end of the creek, so enter where you like.  The trail is on the east side of the creek and for the best experience take the low road, though it will require climbing over logs, tiptoeing across ledges, and sliding in some mud…but you are right on the creek with all the little falls.  For an easier climb take the high road which is a steep incline but more direct and smooth.  At the end is Shelving Rock Falls which boasts a gorgeous wading pool at the bottom, double falls from the top at about 35 feet, there are sections kids can slide on, a deep pool near the top on the south side, and you can cross from side to side at the bottom or top.  This is the east side of the lake so if you need to rent a boat, I suggest Chic’s Marina.


  • Long drive
  • Park/walk

23579_433570718834_2282992_nThis drive is best in the fall and done in either a convertible or with all the windows down.  Drive north out of Bolton Landing on 9N to the flashing yellow light of County Route 11, make a left then an immediate right onto North Bolton Road.  A few miles up, the road forks and you want to stay right onto Padanarum Road.  After a while it will turn into a dirt road by a marsh and you’ll wonder if this is the right way to go…the answer is yes and you need to keep on going.  Padanarum twists and winds through the trees following the water.  You’ll pass the oldest cemetery in Bolton.  Just keep staying right and if you choose to get out and look around, be respectful of the Private Property signs.  You’ll pass Indian Pond before coming to an “intersection” in the middle of the woods.  Should you choose to go left you’ll wind up on Crystal Lake or Route 8 eventually, I stay right and make the loop back to Bolton.  After making the right the road opens up a bit as it jogs back and forth across the river with little bridges and great spots to pull off and explore a little.  Then the river drops away below you as the road goes higher and higher til you find yourself driving along the edge of a deep gorge with the falls rushing below you!  At the end of the road, you’ll find yourself back at Route 9N and all you have to do is turn right and you will be back in Bolton in 10 minutes.  It’s a great little loop to drive and take your mind off things.


  • Short drive
  • park/hike

northwestbaybrookfalls04_575At about the same spot the Padanarum Road lets out onto Route 9N you’ll find a parking lot on the east side of the road with a small reservoir.  Park your car here (about 10-12 spaces) and walk south along route 9N on the east side till you come to the trail head.  Follow the trail, which is a very easy hike, to come to the top of the falls on the east side.  The falls are about a 25 foot plunge and they feed into Northwest Bay of Lake George.  For a view from the bottom you’ll need to trek through the woods on unmarked trails from the bridge by the highway and simply follow the sound of the water.  From the base you can launch a canoe or kayak and paddle your way into Lake George through an amazing marsh area.  I recommend having someone drop you off with a canoe or kayak and then picking you up at Bolton’s Memorial Park.  There are also kayak rentals on Green Island and you can easily paddle to this spot from there.


Not everyone can to get out on the lake, and sometimes its just nice to see it from land.  With lakefront property at a premium, sometimes it is hard to get someplace where you can truly appreciate the lake.  Here are a few hidden gems of places on land in Bolton Landing to see the lake without a boat or hiking:

If you like to hike, the Cat Mountain and Thomas Mountain trails are the way to go with stunning views from above!   Best in the fall.

Hidden gems are only found when you explore…so go out there and find your hidden gem.  I remember when I found Gates Falls and was amazed it had been there my whole life and I didn’t know.  I am a big fan of a little mini bay inside the bay across from Indian Brook by Fan Point, it holds special meaning to me and I remember “discovering” it.  There is another tiny bay like that on Gravelly Island in the Northeast corner.  My favorite underwater spot is the eastern rocks off the tiny island just north of Commission Island.  If you have never done the northern portion of the lake by boat and gone through the natural dam…you are missing out.  I love walking through the channel between Long Island and Speaker Heck Island…its fun on a waverunner or canoe too.  Standing on the rocks south of Canoe Island is a trip and putting through the Needles Eye channel has always been my favorite.  Fall is my favorite time on Lake George, when the water is calm as can be, the air is crisp, the leaves are changing on the mountains, and the lake is warmer than the air.  Sugerloaf Mountain comes to life with vibrant colors, reflecting in the glass-like water, and the only sound is wind in your ears, the splash of the water, and the hum of the boat.  However, you explore Lake George…have fun!

Boating on Lake George in Early Fall

Boating on Lake George in Early Fall, 2008

Standing In The Middle Of the Rapids on Padanarum

Standing In The Middle Of the Rapids on Padanarum in Fall, 2010

My Son Max at Shelving Rock Falls in Summer, 2013.

My Son Max at Shelving Rock Falls in Summer, 2013.

Lastly, much of Lake George’s eastern shore is owned by the state of New York and “forever wild.”  The Adirondack Park is the largest State Park in the United States and together, we can keep places like this for generations to come by respecting the environment and using alternative transportation to leave a smaller ecological footprint.  Check out solutions like RelayRides for fun ways to vacation in your area that save you money and are better for the environment…and be sure to tweet us at @SoLongFreedom if you’re ever in the Lake George area!  Now get out there an find your #HiddenGems!

Going Through The Needles Eye in Summer, 2014

Going Through The Needles Eye in Summer, 2014

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