Total distance travelled: 720 miles. Mileage: 28.8 average in galens V6 accord and my lead foot with a steady cruising speed of 80 mph average. Adam and KJ Roo were the unlucky volunteers to accompany me on this quest.
Why so far? Well there's a story see...
We arrived at Phantom Fireworks just north of the PA border, about 130 miles from my house. I was rather shocked to see such a huge warehouse. Even more surprising were the number of people inside the retail storefront portion. In the time it takes for me to eat a sandwhich, they sold about $15,000 worth of fireworks to other crazy people just like me. $2k of that was just the two people in front of me, and there were a dozen checkout lines each with people in line all the way to the back of the store. It was insane. There was a line to get into the store and a cop was letting people in as people would leave, performing crowd control so the building didn't completely pack full of people.
Even so, it was packed. Selections were initially thought to be fantastic. Then closer inspection started to reveal a lot of ho-hum brands. Hey, that mortar set is $99. Which is easily twice as expensive as it should be, except that they have this buy 1 get a second for 95 cents. I wasn't put off too much by the prices, but the days of coming home with a shopping bag full of fireworks for $20 just didn't seem possible with this pricing setup. We found some top brand stuff hidden in with all the crap, and put it into the shopping cart.
It is here that Adam noted his reservations as I started trying to find the best bottle rockets for my tastes. He pointed out that a lot of other stuff we want we might be able to get at another fireworks store. I agreed and it was decided that worst case scenario, we come back and buy more. We paid for what we already picked out, a rather conservative selection of very high end artillery shells, some roman candles that my book on fireworks buying said are so good that they're redefining what roman candles can do (Brothers brand), and some 8oz rockets that, also, had rave reviews. I choked back the concept of buying 6 of those missles for $29, despite the buy one get another for $1. I didn't really WANT a dozen of them. I wanted 6 for $15, but that's where they get you or so I found out...
We hopped into the car and started driving. My theory was that there in PA we'd find other firework stands competing with Phantom not far up the highway. I drove for about 20 miles, and didn't find anything. All the while Adam was on my SK searching the web for information on more fireworks retail locations. Between that and the Accord's nav system, we should be able to find anything. Unfortunately, the closest we could find was 200 miles north, not far from LAKE ERIE! It was 4pm and the place was open till 9. They claimed to be PA's largest fireworks warehouse and had a retail storefront, selling both Consumer fireworks (1.4g) and Display fireworks (1.3g). We discussed it and then decided to continue this QUEST and head there to see what they had.
200 miles later, we arrive. Like Phantom, the first thing they ask is if we're PA residents. Do we have out of state drivers licenses? Yes. "Then you can buy fireworks." was their response. Poor PA residents. Sure must suck to have great fireworks for sale right where you live, but not be able to buy any of them!
We wandered into the warehouse and the first thing we noticed was that it was quiet. We were alone. Aside from the 5 employees we spotted, we were it. I looked up at the prices and almost fell over. They were anywhere from 1/2 to 1/4 of what Phantom wanted. And oh look, Brothers brand here. Brothers brand there. Brothers brand everywhere, along with Shogun and Red Latern and a few others.
And then it hit me ... the prices. How could I _NOT_ get this pack of 6 parachute missles, they're only $1.89. How could I NOT get this pack of ground spinners, they're 87 cents! Better yet, how could I NOT get this 500 gram heavy edition Brothers brand 37 shot mortar finale setup for $59? Phantom wanted $159 for it. Course, you get two, but I DONT WANT TWO of the same damn thing and they won't allow substitutions.
THEN it got even better. The case prices. OMFG. 4 of those finale setups for just $112. I would have spent $320 at Phantom to get the same thing. The case discounts were so incredible that Adam and I had to look at each other and wonder if we should buy for next year, too. Fortunately it was quickly decided to keep things cheap, to remember where this place was and to just enjoy the road trip to it again in the future.
We stopped to talk to one of the employees, asking how long they'd been around. The answer was that they had been there since 1947. This was "just" their SMALL warehouse. When I asked how they compared to 'the company that shall not be named' (ie: Phantom), they explained a lot about how fireworks are purchased from overseas in vastly different qualitys. That any buyer can demand a case of something for $10 each, and the maker will happily build them it for $10 each. And put $10 of propellant into it, too, and make it suck. These guys were serious about quality, and also were forward enough to discuss the philosophy of making fireworks a higher quality here in the western civilization as a new standard, improving it from times in the past.
One entire trunkful of fireworks later (and I do mean trunkful, filled to the brim) Adam and I each paid our share with glee and then stared at what little we'd purchased at Phantom still in the trunk. We thought about seeing what their refund policy would be, since we'd be driving right by them on the way home. But, we did pick out some fairly premium stuff and so it probably wasn't worth the hassle. I'm not even sure if they take refunds. So we kept what we had and took what we got and then drove home.
Total transit time: 10:30am - 1:30 am = 15 hours.
Total: artillary shells 300+, hundreds of rockets and missles, and lots of things that shoot, zip, explode, crackle, fly, and go BOOM. We even got a mortar setup that sends 70 army dudes up into the air on parachutes. (Unfortunately we got TWO of them because that was purchased at Phantom *grumble*)
Total money spent: $123.19 x2 (adam and I split the cost)
Total needed to be spent at Phantom to get the same thing: Est. $1000 and we'd have had half the selection.
Sunday came and went. We were all pretty tired...