Posts tagged ‘road trip’

God Bless You, Mr. Zevon

1 December, 2012 | | 3 Comments

I was right – the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame had enough color to make up for the permabrown of Ohio and the rest of Indiana.  We arrived in Cleveland, which I keep wanting to spell with an “a” in it, and promptly went for lunch at a place called Carnegie Kitchen and Dining.  Now, having spent some of my formative tasting meals in New York, it is axiomatic that anyplace with “Carnegie” in the name probably isn’t going to suck.  It didn’t.  If you’re in Cleveland, stop in. 

Lunch accomplished and eaten, we moved on to the Hall of Fame, for which the hotel runs a shuttle.  Our shuttle driver gave us a block by block tour of the city for the entire mile it took to get there, which was by itself worth the price of admission.  The folks taking tickets were also wonderful – possibly because it was a slow day – but instead of counting everyone by their “normal” age, they decided we should all have Rock-n-Roll ages.  This lead to the Human Tape Recorder, otherwise an adult in the eyes of the ticketing system, being admitted as a child along with Number One Son, and the Reigning Queen of Pink being admitted for free.  Hey, royalty is different. 

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is immense, and richly detailed.   In addition to the underwear that Elvis stained on his third tour of some hotel outside Memphis on a Tuesday in July, they have the actual shirt that Joey Ramone was wearing when he took some drugs.  (Mind you, that was most of them.)  Also, they have all the keys from all the hotel rooms Timothy B. Schmidt stayed in while touring with the Eagles.  (He evidently kept them all.)   The collection of guitars was honestly incredible, and the videos around some of the exhibits were fantastic.  The top floors were dedicated to the Grateful Dead, which was overwhelming even for those of us who like their music.  It’s amazing. 

One of the best parts of the whole meuseum was seeing the original notes from several – I think eight – songwriters, of songs that you would know.  There’s Don Henley’s pen scratching out “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” Billy Joel’s hand editing “My Life,” and Joe Walsh’s surprisingly graceful script putting down the lines to “Life’s Been Good.”  SOBUMD waved me over to make sure I saw the best, though – Warron Zevon’s original notes for the words to “Sweet Home Alabama.” 

Some of you may know that I am a huge Zevon fan.  For me, getting to see what he scratched out and changed in even one song was a terrific thrill.  Plus, on the albums, I really can’t always hear exactly what he’s saying, so I was very glad to finally get to see *exactly* what that one word is, since I can’t understand it on the song.

Mind you, the word turns out to be “jizz,” but hey.  At least I know.  We are not surprised.

Another highlight was the Reigning Queen of Pink, on seeing Michael Jackson’s white glove: “Look!   It’s the Doctor’s gay hand!” 

Leaving the hotel the next morning, as we were attempting to check out, there was some confusion as FOBUMD and I both handed the clerk our keys.  She asked which of us had our last name; we pointed at each other and remarked that we both did.  She looked up brightly, smiled, and said, “Oh, brothers!” 

“Yes,” I said, while my father was still getting his breath, “yes, we are!” 

I used to hope I looked as good as and as young as he does when I’m his age.  These days, I’m just hoping I see his age from this side of the dirt, you know?  Anyway, I think he may have tipped her extra, once he stopped laughing. 

Wheels up after breakfast, and we were Chicago bound!

Onward to Chicago!

Wednesday Morning Road Trip

28 November, 2012 | | 4 Comments

Why does every Interstate way station, rest stop, and welcome center in the US always seem to be playing Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer when you stop there for a pee break and fresh coffee?

Channeling our inner Willies, we’re on the road again, of course. We’re flying down the highways, westbound, here at the ass end of November as we drive to Chicago and the Queen Mother of Pink’s 95th birthday. We’re taking the north pass through Cleveland, the Mistake on the Lake, and the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame. Hilarity is certain to ensue!

Two hours under our wheels has us on the Penna Turnpike, rolling hills dotted with cows, deer, and the odd rusted out shell of one of Detroit’s finest. We’d been driving for 90 minutes or so in silence when Number One Son, apropos of nothing, made the following observation: “Sisters. They’re so much more pleasant when they’re asleep.” No argument there, but I had to tell him to announce these observations more quietly or risk their wrath when he woke them up.

The last few trips to Chicago have been summertime excursions, with nature’s broad paintbrush of glorious color generously applied at every turn. Westward Ho through November’s arse, it seems, is an altogether
different and monochromatic story. There’s Green-with-brown, Gray-with-brown, Brown, Dingy Brown, and Dirty Snow. That seems to be the extent of color available to the landscape – even the signs and billboards offer no relief.

I’ll check the local fauna.  Horses – brown.  Ducks – nope, they’re brown.  Hey, cows! Black, black, black, black, and oh hey, brown.  Passing the “Fun Slides Carpet Skatepark;” sounds fascinating, but not a lot of color. Whoops, there’s a couple of deer – and guess what?

Even the permanent construction of traffic cone orange is faded and brown.  Maybe Cleveland will have some color.  There’s rock -n- roll there, right?

Onward to Cleveland!

A Study in August: The End

17 September, 2012 | | 1 Comment
Flying Out of the Sunrise

Flying Out of the Sunrise

Wrapping up the vacation tales, since August is only a distant memory and the urchins are back to school…  When last we left our tale, we were heading back to the shore house from the crazy dayz at Wildwoods.  The next day dawned hot, as August will, and as ripe with promise as a seabird flying out of an ocean sunrise.  We heard tell of a trail for birds and shore viewing, and decided to let the younger few skip it in favor of the pool.  SOBUMD, the HTR, and I piled in with the Very Industrious Uncle as he drove us to what I think is probably some state park or other, but should be known as The Great Meeting Of All The Herons Everywhere As They Prepare For The End Of Days.

"Damn it, I told them No Pictures!"

“Damn it, I told them No Pictures!”

I’ve never seen so many herons – gray ones and white ones, but mostly white – in one place in my entire life.   In addition to the birds, there were more greenhead flies and gnats and mosquitoes than I would have thought a state the size of New Jersey could support.  The were keeping up with the truck, flinging themselves at the windows, trying to bore a way in through the hood.  Alfred Hitchcock could not have had a better ensemble cast than these bugs – they epitomized evil from wing to thorax. 

Skimming The Water

Skimming The Water

But the view of the birds was worth it.  You’re getting off easy – I’m only posting a few of them.  Call if you need me to hook you up – I’ve got hundreds more! 

As I type these words, I’m wearing a button that says “Ask me about my heron pictures!”  (Why would that not actually surprise most of you?  Yeah, well.)   My favorite was probably the heron version of the Dirty Old Man, who seemed quite upset that we were taking his picture – he looked like he was up to no good.  Catching a heron catching a fish was a nice touch as well.  There were a few other good shots, with big grey herons and white ones flapping at each other, but these are the highlights. 

Snack Time!

Snack Time!

 The other really fun thing to watch as you drive anywhere in this marvelous country is, of course, the road – and the bits of flotsam and jetsam that accumulate around it on both sides.   The Patio Drive In is a terrific example of a roadside business that didn’t know when to stop.  They offer Italian, hot dogs,  clams, pizza, hogies, Philly cheesesteaks, wings, ice cream, nachos, BBQ, and Mexican, all for dining in or taking out, with a set of benches and a brace of triangle flags that scream “notice me or my cousin will slash your tires while I’m scooping your kid’s ice cream.”  Heck, they’ve got Philly Water Ice (as opposed to what other kinds of ice, I’m sure I don’t want to know), and an ATM for you to give them more cash.  What’s not to love?    

The Patio Drive In

The Patio Drive In

Land Includes Bottle!

Land Includes Bottle!

And then there’s a bottle for sale, just down the road from the Drive In.  It’s filled with concrete, but hey, it comes with 3 acres of land!  Who doesn’t need a 20-foot concrete bottle next to the side of the road?  I was going to buy it myself, but SOBUMD didn’t think we could secure it on the top of the car too well.  Spoilsport. 

Seriously, who wouldn’t want that?  I love it!

But eventually the bottle of our vacation started to run dry, and we turned around to head home.  We bid the beach and the cousins and aunts and uncles a fond farewell, and set out for the New Jersey Pine Barrens.  I was going to take a picture, but you’ve probably seen a pine tree, and there’s a reason they’re called “Barrens,” if you get my drift.  It’s nice to see that there are still areas where people haven’t bothered to cut everything down and build, well, 20-foot concrete bottles everywhere, not that there’s anything wrong with that.  It reminded me of some of the sights we passed heading down the shore in the first place.  For instance, there’s a Museum of Rural Life in rural Maryland on the Eastern Shore.  Hard to imagine why they’d need one.  We drove past a field of grasses with an old dilapidated basketball hoop in it, still tall but leaning, covered with rust.  How quickly nature presses full court to reclaim her own. 

Rivers with names like Pokomoke and Wicomio remind me that Europeans weren’t the first people here, and the 78 Cracker Barrels we passed (plus a new one opening soon out by the bypass!) remind me that it just doesn’t matter anymore. 

On the Eastern Shore of Virgina, we noticed right away that Virginia is much bigger into pushing tobacco – I don’t remember many, if any, signs on the MD side of US 13 for cigarettes.  In VA, you can’t throw a rock 10 feet without hitting two tobacco discount outlets and a fireworks store.  Closer to the shore, the signs start to morph – “Clams, tobacco, fireworks!”  We also proved that if you drive far enough in any one direction in this country, you’ll eventually find a Walmart.   

This proved even more true than usual when we were out of the Pine Barrens and approaching Philly.  There are plenty of reasons to go to Philadelphia, including “it’s on the way to my house,” but our main reason was to perform a public service for that city, our great nation, and in fact the world.  As we all know, as the Big Ugly Man Doll, I am the final authority on style and good taste in this country, and it had come to my august attention that there has been a debate raging in the heart of the City of Brotherly Love for many years:  Pat’s or Geno’s? 

In case you’ve been hiding under a culinary rock for the last 46 years, Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks are two Philly Cheesesteak walk-up joints located across the street from each other on 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia.  As the final authority on style and good taste, I drove my family to Sowt Filly and tried them both.  Just to make sure things were fair, we order the same sandwich at both places:  “One wit, add onions.”   The ‘wit’ tells them you want it wit da cheese on it.  We started at Pat’s, split one sandwich 5 ways, and crossed the street to Geno’s. 

Pat’s.  The answer is, if you’re parachuted in to South Philly and you’re nearly broke and on the edge of expiring from hunger, spend your last few bucks at Pat’s.  It costs 50 cents more than Geno’s.  Pay it.  Geno’s was dry, even with the cheese, and the bread was harder.  However, if you’re NOT about to fall over from hunger, the real answer is that I’m damn sure there are better places to eat in Philadelphia, even South Philadelphia, than either of these over-hyped tourist destinations.  They seem to be more interested in carrying on their longstanding granfalloon rivalry than in paying any attention to what they’re serving.  They no longer even see their customers; they see only each other and the reflections of themselves.  I’m willing to bet we’d’ve had a better and more engaging meal back at The Patio Drive In.

The Angel Moroni Trumpeting Us Home

The Angel Moroni Trumpeting Us Home

And so having eaten, and having found the answer we came for, more or less, we loaded back into the car and started down the long slow wending and winding that is southbound Interstate 95 on any given day.   We wended through and out of Philly, wound around and about Baltimore, and eventually fell back to the old familiar sights and sounds of the US Capitol Beltway.  The best reason to take the north path down and cross the Cabin John Bridge (as opposed to the south path and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge) is that as we near the 270 split, the Angle Moroni trumpets us home from the top of the DC Mormon Temple.  Despite not being Mormon, I’ve always found the temple a breathtaking piece of architecture.  Towering over the trees shading the road, it provides yet another testament to the constant element of surprise that you will find if you take your eyes from the eternal road, stretching in front of you forever homeward, and glance up as you pass the world. 

As always, dear friend, fond relation, gentle reader, thanks for joining us on the journey!

A Study in August, Part Three

13 August, 2012 | | 1 Comment

On to the beach!  We made it down the shore in record time, stopping only for gas and hard liquor.  SOBUMD wanted to make sure there was some vodka for her cucumber vodka martini, and when I mentioned this to the lady ringing me up at the Jersey Liquor Store (everyone talks to the hat – in New Jersey, I’m the most interesting man in the world), she recommended that I get her the Cucumber Vodka on which they were running a special.  Knowing that we could put it to good use one way or another, I concurred on the cucumber and we motored on. 

We arrived at the Shore House at the precise moment I intended, which was Gin and Tonic o’clock – my scheduling skills are excelled only by my driving.  Following a settling in and unpacking period that lasted approximately 14 seconds, the Reigning Queen of Pink and the Human Tape Recorder were in the water, and Number One Son had retreated into a room with the iPad, not to be seen again until dinner.   We commenced relaxing immediately. 

We relaxed all day and into the evening, and picked right up relaxing the next morning where we’d left off, but with Scrapple on the grill, eaten on the deck with coffee and crumb cake.  It’s hard not to be relaxed in the face of an early morning ocean breeze, facing a lagoon, while munching on hot grilled meat product and crumb cake. 

The relaxation came to a screeching halt when we realized we were nearly out of beer.  A trip to Long Beach Island was planned, conceived, and executed in short order, leaving many of the tribe at home in the water.  Once on Long Beach Island, we found fudge, tee-shirts, bracelets, and beer.  Unfortunately, while putting the beer in the back of SOBUMD’s minivan, the handle that opens the hatch in the back snapped and broke in my hand. 

This would not be a big deal, but for the fact that you can’t open the hatch from the inside, and that the van’s power door not only isn’t ‘power’ any more but also does not open from the inside, and that the struts need work, and that the horn only functions on alternate Wednesdays while Mercury is in retrograde, and that it’s an 11 year old van with more than a few dings in it.  Without a simple way to get things into and out of the van, its utility is greatly diminished and its days numbered. 

We returned with our loot, sending the brilliantly diminutive RQoP into the back of the van to pass things over the seats to us.  Beer was consumed, new cars were researched, and relaxation recommenced.

Next up was a trip to Wildwoods, NJ, evidently an icon of beach life on the Jersey Shore that I’d never heard of, but since my experience with the Jersey Shore has been heretofore limited to last year’s situation and Snooki’s tan, that was hardly surprising.  We loaded kids, aunts, uncles, and towels into vehicles – some easier, some harder – and headed to the beach. 

Once in the water, we found dolphins swimming just offshore with us.  Number One Son, who does not usually like to get his head, hair, or face wet, decided that he liked the waves once he was past the point where they broke over his head.  He pulled me with him to this point – the fact that we were halfway to the continental shelf bothered him not at all.  The Human Tape Recorder and the RQoP also reaquainted themselves with their inner barracudas.  My response to a wave coming up that’s 5 feet over my head is to duck and cover.  Theirs is to dive into it headfirst. 

And We're Dancing on the Top of the Wildwoods Sign

And We’re Dancing on the Top of the Wildwoods Sign

The beach rolled on for a few hours, after which we moved the party to the Wildwoods Boardwalk.   This is a magical place, by which I mean “very likely to remove your money from your wallet.”  We enjoyed the local cuisine, such as battered, deep fried Oreo cookies, along with a few life-restoring and badly needed pints of Guinness and the Snow White diner.  We were served by a few of the local Olgas – all the wait staff at the beach seem to be imports from Eastern Europe.  They make great roast beast hogies, command of the English language notwithstanding. 

I also noticed that after two days in New Jersey, my every other word to the kids is “fuhgeddaboudit.”  Perhaps I should keep my commentary concerning commands of the English language to my self. 

The other thing we noticed was the price of the rides – remember what magical means?  Some of the children wanted to ride a roller coaster, some others wanted to walk through a haunted ship.  Since the cost for these two activities came to more than $120, we had to explain that this roller coaster and SOBUMD’s next car had just became an either or proposition.

Katniss Drills 'em at the Dart-n-Die

Katniss Drills ’em at the Dart-n-Die

In lieu of rides, the kids played some of the “everybody wins a prize” arcades; they seemed particularly drawn to the “Throw Darts and Pop Balloons” event.  Number One Son took a particular delight in the opportunity for wanton destruction, popping two out of three of his targets.  Since everyone wins a prize, the lady in the booth showed him his prize options for hitting two balloons – to which he replied, “No thanks; I’m only in it for the popping.”   The RQoP stepped up and declared that she’d add his two pops to whatever she got, and then of course pulled a Katniss and drilled three for three, walking off with a bear the size of her head.  

I Want a Job in the Department of Love

I Want a Job in the Department of Love

Once full of fried gooey goodness and tired from the waves and water, we started the long boardwalk back to the car.  On the way, we ran into one more example concerning one’s command of the English language.  Really?  The Department of Love?  Can you get a job there?

Driving back to the Shore House, we contemplated the Cheshire sunset as the sun slipped from the clouds and back to the Earth, through a hole in the pocket of the sky, accompanied by the strains of the new Green Day song on the radio.  It was a wonderful end to the day, and we looked forward to seeing if there was dessert waiting in the crab trap we’d baited before we left. 

There was, but he was too small and we had to throw him back.  Some days, everybody lives.

Next up, a drive through the marshes!  In the meantime, I’ll leave you with that new Green Day song everyone’s talking about.




A Study in August, Part Two

11 August, 2012 | | 3 Comments

Nothing says vacation like beer for breakfast.  If that’s followed by a beer with lunch, hey, we’re not going anywhere.  But that’s not today’s topic, though – today, we’re talking trucks! 

1968 International Scout

1968 International Scout

The first part of our trip was to Pennsylvania, where SOBUMD’s father was busy having a birthday.  SOBUMD’s brother, the Very Industrious Uncle, had gotten him a framed picture of a 1968 International Scout.  It was yellow and white, part of an old advertising campaign for International – cute picture.  We then found reasons for Opa to check on something downstairs while the rest of us stepped outside; he joined us in a few minutes to find an immaculately restored yellow and white 1968 International Scout in his driveway, with a big Happy Birthday balloon attached to one of the wipers. 

A Very Happy Opa

A Very Happy Opa

To say that Opa was speechless would be to court understatement.  The Very Industrious Uncle had spent the past 6 months restoring the Scout, finishing just in time for the birthday presentation.  I don’t know about you, but the last time anyone gave me a car for my birthday, I was maybe seven, and it was an International Hot Wheels.  I mentioned this to Opa as he took me for a spin in the Scout; he said “Yeah, me too!”  He may have slept in it that night; not sure.  For the record, we got him a tee-shirt, which we managed to forget to bring with us. 

The next day dawning bright and clear, we made our fond farewells to Oma, Opa, and the Scout, which the three lunatic children believe is their new cousin, and headed East to the Jersey Shore and the shore house of the Very Industrious Uncle.  The trip was only a few hours, not as long as the drive up, but we still had time to continue listening to our eclectic playlist and trading verbal banter and witty repartee.  The Human Tape Recorder noted the lyrics to a Sheryl Crow song, which included the phrase:  “maybe there’s something wrong with you.”  The HTR declared that she could tell the song wasn’t written by a teenybopper, since a pop-teen type would have written it as “maybe there’s something wrong with ME.”   SOBUMD and I mentally high-fived each other, considering this a sign that we’re raising confidant kids, or at least damned observant ones.  

Number One Son influenced our song selection as well, asking me what Reno was and why one would shoot a man in it.  (Having killed any number of six packs just to watch them die, I felt compelled to play him the Folsom Prison Blues, with the Man in Black himself, along with yours truly singing base.)  Number One Son also used the time in the car to expound on several of his many of his points of view.  For example, the topic of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder came up (as it so often will in our family).  Talking about OCD, Number One Son had this to say:  “It should really be called OCS.  I view it less as a disorder than a syndrome.”  If you know a more certain sign that you have OCD than arguing about what it should really be called, I’d love to hear it.  Meanwhile, the RQoP – who received a full sized upright vacuum cleaner for her birthday a while ago, so she could better clean her usually immaculate room – could not be reached for comment.

But we were headed to the beach, down the shore, where all these concerns would melt away.  We needed no further proof that we were well away from the Washington DC craziness than driving past a sign for a business called “Hell Yeah Watersports.”  Within a 100 mile radius of the DC area, that same company would have incorporated under the name “Safe-n-Legal Watersports.”  Luckily, we were north of Atlantic City, where you can still call ’em as you see ’em. 

From here, on to the beach!   I’ll leave you with Johnny again, with those Folsom Prison Blues.