Monday, October 06, 2008

GART; Destination, Richmond, VA

Day 2:

So, needless to say I didn't hit the road as early as I would have liked being up until 4:00 a.m. Craig and I went out for breakfast at the Golden Dawn where I got scrapple because when in Philly you just got to. Then I got soft pretzels at the Philadelphia Soft Pretzel Factory for the ride because, well, same reason. The ride was uneventful until I hit VA. I didn't take in account the traffic leaving Washington, DC for the weekend. The next hour and a half were a crawl of no more then 40 mph. It was frustrating as the 4 and a half hour drive took nearly 6 hours. I eventually made my way to Chucks place.

Chuck has become a very close friend over a short period of time. I've known him off and on for a decade but over the last few years travelling to Ireland and NYC we've become very good friends. I won't go in detail about Chucks recent health issues but he lost about a month of his life to being in an induced coma after suffering a heart attack. This was going to be my first time seeing him since.

Chuck and Melissa live in a row house built in the 1800's on East Broad St near downtown Richmond. It's a beautiful old house. Did I mention they have NINE cats? I worried a bit about this as, as I mentioned before, I'm allergic. We caught up a bit and I settled in and got ready to go to a friends house in the same block for a wine and cheese gathering. Yes, me at a wine and cheese gathering. As I described it I am the turd in the punch bowl of the wine and cheese crowd. Chuck is really into his wine and there must have been 100 bottles stored in the spare bedroom alone. We walked down to the neighbors house and Chuck kept freaking me out by walking around with an open bottle and glass of wine outside. I'm not used to that. We hung out with some of his neighbors who would best be described as almost middle aged professionals. Not so much yuppies but close. They were all really nice and I never felt out of place. We only stayed a bit then went back to his place for grilling out and to watch the Sox game. We eventually hung out on his front porch and caught up with everything in life. The cats were starting to kill me at this point and my eyes were nearly swollen shut so we called it a night.

It was sublime and low key night but perfect for what it was. Chuck is one of the funniest people I know in his very dry (and filthy rotten) way. I wish I could have spent more time there but as I'm going to see him in November it was all good

Notes from the Road:

-On route 95 travelling through DE I got stuck in the same cluster fuck of traffic I always did when I used to go down there and ironically was stuck for around 5 minutes in front of the exit that I used to take to go visit a friend

-I was amazed the sheer amount of tire blowout remnants on the side of the road. I know it's mostly from trucks but I'm amazed I've never ever had it happen to me and more so, I've never seen it happen in front of me
Next stop: Leesberg, VA

Thursday, October 02, 2008

GART; Destination, Levittown, PA

So, the Great American Road Trip came and went and I had a great time!! So, you’re asking, where were the promised blogs as I went along? Well, on a trip like this where you are staying with people there is not a ton of down time, which if there were would defeat the idea of the trip. Also, you can’t predict traffic and don’t plan anything too precisely. So, what I decided to do was put together a retrospective of the trip done by destination for your (but mostly my) enjoyment!

Day 1- Destination, Levittown, PA

So I start out the day finishing my packing. I think I literally took every article of clothing I owned as laundry was not something I wanted to think about. Around 11:45 A.M. Enterprise picked me up (just like the advertising, for real). It took longer then I figured and didn’t get back to my place to load the car, add the car to my Fast Lane/Easy Pass etc and hit the road until after 1:00. The car was a gold 2007 Chevy Malibu. It was nice enough but they gave it to me with ZERO washer fluid. I mean, on the display inside the car it read “low washer fluid” which should have tipped them off. I mean, what else do they do at car rental places but rent cars, get them back, check to make sure they are in tiptop shape then rent them again. It kinda pissed me off but I reckoned I’d address it when I needed it. Anyway, it headed for the Mass Pike to start the 5-hour drive towards Philly. I’m intimately familiar with this drive from making runs from Cambridge to Philly, Delaware and other stops in the Delaware Valley region. What I didn’t plan on was my delayed departure putting me in a knot of traffic at rush hour on the Garden State Throughway. I finally arrived around 6:30 and we hit the ground running.

Let me pause to talk about Craig and Levittown. Levittown is probably best known as one of the original pre-planned communities that were the basis for what is now modern suburbia (and for an infamous gas riot in the late 70’s). It is the largest suburb of Philadelphia though not most populous. It’s pretty much like most places with its share of middle and lower middle class families. It’s a little rough around the edges maybe but most of the folks I’ve met there are honest, hard working folks. I remember when I first met Craig his stories of Levittown scared the crap out of me. Having now been there a few times now I’m starting to think Craig and his brothers and friends were just plain crazy and not so much Levittown itself. One curious thing was they must really, really hate tailgaters (drivers, not football revelers) as about every half mile in city limits there were signs reminding you the evilness of it.

I met Craig…gosh I can’t even remember now how long ago but it was closer to 20 years then 10 years ago…showing my age. He moved to Arlington, MA after college for work. Like with many of the friends I made post-college we met at the gym and formed a group that went out every Thursday night for burgers and beer. He and I usually ended up out far after the others went home. We got along famously and became fast friends. We always laughed and laughed when we went out. I think on the surface we really weren’t much alike except our warped senses of humor and drinking prowess but in reality were very similar. We had great road trips to Ireland (greatest trip ever) and New Orleans that were unforgettable. A while back he moved back home as he felt the need to be nearer his family, which is as good a reason, as there is for moving. He met a great girl, bought a house in his neighborhood and got married. We’ve seen each other now and then since then but not nearly enough.

So, we met at his house, I dropped my bags, changed quickly, and headed out. We went to nearby Langhorne, PA to a place called, ironically enough, The Langhorne Ale House. It is part of a chain known as Miller's Ale House. Well, needless to say, we ate and drank a lot…to the tune of 50 wings and a TON of beer. I was in disbelief as I’m so used to Boston beer prices and here they were running a bucket of 5 Miller Lite for $8.00 or $5.00 for a pitcher. Fuckin’ Massachusetts. So when we finally had our fill, and let me just say Craig is one of the few people I know that cannot only match my drinking prowess but exceed it, and his wife Michelle drove us back. On the way out of the place we grabbed 2, yes, 2, 12 packs of beer. If you’ve never been to PA you buy cases of beer at a beer store but anything less is bought from a bar. Seriously. We returned to his house and his 2 cats and ginormous rabbits and proceeded to drink beer, catch up, talk about everything that’s happened in forever, and watch funny movies until 4:00 in the morning. We both decided that despite all the time that’s passed we haven’t really changed.

This was my first stop but it established 3 ongoing themes throughout the trip. 1) That Craig really is one of my favorite people and hence when you see each other, no matter how long in between, it’s like it always was. 2) That everywhere I slept there was at least one furred animal and I’m allergic and forgot my pills (more on that later). 3) You really can’t plan a trip like this too precisely as you can’t anticipate things like drinking until 4:00 A.M. Next stop, Richmond, VA

Notes from the road: I wasn’t on the road much this trip but the one note worth mentioning is Jersey, far away more then any other state I drove through, makes you feel lower then pond scum if you don’t have an easy pass. It’s not even close. It’s like, 10 lanes for Easy Pass all right down the middle and one lane for cash a quarter mile all the way to the right. So far my Easy Pass, which I’ll rarely use at home, was my soundest investment