Joe's New Blog

Nothing special, this is just my third effort at writing a blog about my life and what goes on in it: Hobbies, cooking, work, maybe the occasional book or DVD review, and so forth. Nothing really noteworthy, but this is sort of a little subset of my world...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Into Massachusetts...

We slept in fairly late today. Not surprising, considering how tired we both were last night. After a good night's sleep, we got ourselves ready, got everything put in the car, and then headed across the road to the Dunkin' Donuts there. The girlfriend got a little flatbread sandwich they had there, and I got my usual cinnamon roll thing. Unfortunately, it looks like the flatbread sandwich may have had a bit of spinach in it. The girlfriend is allergic to spinach, and it tends to make her feel rather ill, but she was so hungry that she went ahead and ate most of it anyway. So far she's not showing any ill effects, so maybe it wasn't spinach after all...

The drive to get out of Rhode Island didn't take very long. We didn't really expect it to, considering that the state is only about a hundred miles in any direction. There were a lot of gorgeous old houses along the freeway, most of which probably weren't along any kind of highway when they were built. I did my best to get pictures:




There was also this nice old church, as there seem to be hundreds of all over the parts of the East we've been through:


And, after an hour of driving or so, it was into Massachusetts:


We've stopped at the little welcome center on the freeway and picked up some literature and some suggestions from the nice lady who works here, and it's about time to head back on the road again. Last leg before we get to rest from driving for a while...

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A lovely town and meeting new old friends...

We had a great time in Providence. We got directions to the Trinity Brewhouse from Xian, and it turned out to be quite easy to find, right off the freeway. We had a bit of a problem finding a parking place, but eventually we did. And it seems that they turn off the parking meters, so we didn't even have to feed the meter.

A short walk brought us to the Trinity, which is a nice little pub and restaurant. We were warmly greeted by our hosts upon walking through the door. Xian and Mike were very nice and a lot of fun to hang out with. I've "known" Xian on Stumbleupon for a couple of years now, but this was the first time to actually meet her in person. She's as nice as I expected, and someday or another, we need to get back up here and actually be able to spend a little more time, not just an hour or so at dinner.

As it is, we spent a while enjoying dinner and trading stories of their mad drive across the country from Washington and our drive so far from Texas, along with whatever happened to come up in discussion. The tiny size of some of the states here in the northeast came up. It's funny that people here often won't drive to someplace 10 miles away because it just seems to far. Of course, considering that we're in a state that's pretty much a square 100 miles tall and 100 miles wide, I guess that's not too odd a mindset.

Unfortunately, I forgot to get pictures again. Xian did indeed have the glitter on her eyes that she often displays on her blog pictures. The girlfriend and I were also both expecting her voice to be a bit more high-pitched than it was. Oh, she displayed her "little girl" voice here and there, but in general, she's got a very nice voice that really isn't much higher than I would expect from seeing her. That's a good thing...

The meal itself was pretty good. We all pretty much had pub grub, but the burgers and fries were very tasty and well-prepared. And apparently the beer was pretty good, too. They brew it themselves, but I didn't indulge, because the hops tends to do very bad things to my body. My sweetie had a dark Russian ale, and she said it was quite good. I just had a couple of rum and cokes.

After we finished our dinner and drinks, and had chatted for a while, we had to call it an evening. My girlfriend and I were still pretty tired from all the walking and driving we'd been doing for the past few days, and I think if we'd stayed out too much longer, we would have had to take a nap in the car before getting back here to the motel. As it is, it took us a little longer than expected to get back here.

We walked back to the car, and I snapped a couple of pictures of some of the nearby buildings, which were lit up pretty nicely:



We'd like to get back sometime in the future and be able to explore the city a little more in the daytime, but we didn't really have the chance this time around, and we didn't really want to drive around the city at night, when most of the interesting places were probably closed anyway.

So we headed back toward the motel. Or so we thought. We kind of got trapped in the wrong lane by a little bit of traffic and wound up hitting a different highway than the one we came up on. Of course, since it seemed like it would be so easy to find the Trinity and get back, I hadn't bothered to bring the laptop or GPS. So we wound up driving a few miles in the wrong direction. I really need to learn to trust the girlfriend's holistic driving techniques, because she would have had us back on the path a lot quicker than I did. I would have had us back in Connecticut before too terribly long. But we wound up backtracking after driving through a couple of little residential districts. At least we didn't end up in the industrial part of town...

After getting on the right freeway, it wasn't too tough to get back to the motel. And here we are, watching a bit of history on the tube and getting ready to call it a night. Overall, it was a really nice visit here to Providence, but tomorrow, it's on to the real goal of the trip...

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Connecticut and Rhode Island

Only about an hour after hitting New York City, we were welcomed to Connecticut:

The drive through Connecticut began well enough, and we were granted a number of little views of the ocean and its offshoots. I took quite a number of pictures, since I happen to like water views, but a lot of them look fairly similar, and a lot of them were ruined by the highway rails in the way. Here's a sampling, though:

And this one with the little lighthouse in the haze:

We also saw a variety of other odd things, like this building:

Unfortunately, one of the other things we saw a lot in Connecticut, which we hadn't seen much anywhere else, was traffic. There were two major places, around Bridgeport and New Haven, where we were slowed down to 15 to 20 MPH for a mile or so. In general, we hadn't seen much traffic at all before then, and we never really did see much explanation for the slowdowns here, like an accident or anything. And it wasn't rush hour. Oh well. In any case, that was about the only thing that went all that bad in Connecticut. It took us just about two hours to get through the state.

We did have an odd problem with my GPS unit. It stopped updating the trail just about ten minutes or so into Connecticut. Apparently, it was keeping track of them and recording all the data, but I couldn't get it to update to the screen, by refreshing it or anything. So we pulled over and I rebooted the computer, but that's just a minor inconvenience.

Around 4:15 local time, we came across this little sign:

Followed shortly by the more ornate version:

Now we're stopped at the Motel 6 in Warwick, Rhode Island. Unfortunately, they don't have a fridge or anything, and it appears that our Thai food, which we left in the car last night, have gone bad. It's too bad, because the food was actually pretty good. Oh well. The room is all right, pretty basic, as Motel 6 rooms are wont to be. It's clean, though, and the amenities they do have seem to work fine.

Right now we're taking advantage of the comfortable bed to put our feet up a little, trying to get them back in good working order, because we're going to go meet Xian and Mike in Providence this evening. And we don't want to be staggering around like a couple of cripples, now do we?...

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New York, New York, it's a helluva town!

Not too long after leaving the Dunkin' Donuts in Edison, NJ, we found ourselves at a junction of several highways in quick succession. There was a little more traffic than we had seen before, not so much that driving was difficult, but things were happening quickly enough that I wasn't able to figure out exactly what turns we needed to make to avoid going straight through New York City. We had planned to go around it to the north, but that wasn't to be. Eventually, I gave in to the inevitable and just told the girlfriend to go ahead and follow the signs for the Holland Tunnel.

It wasn't long at all before we got our first hazy view of the familiar skyline:

We passed by some shipyards, again that kind of industrial stuff that fascinates me sometimes:

As we got closer to the city, we caught a little glimpse of the Statue of Liberty:

Yeah, she's small, but she's there in the middle...

We got closer and had a few better views of both the Statue and the skyline.



Well, maybe not all that much better, but closer at least...

Before heading into the tunnel, we also saw this thing:

I have no idea what that building was, but it looked pretty cool.

There was also a very nice-looking church along the way:

And our final glimpse of the skyline before we went underground:

Here's one of the obligatory shots while going through the Holland Tunnel:

And our first view of NYC after coming out of the tunnel:

Shortly after this was where we managed to pretty much get lost in New York City. We weren't actually that bad off, because the GPS kept track of us fairly well. It did have a few minor issues with the concrete canyons, though. We stopped near Little Italy, just to get our bearings, and we discovered that we were pretty much going exactly the opposite direction we needed to be going. While we were sitting there, quite stationary, the GPS had us moving a matter of several blocks in various directions. Fortunately, once we started moving again, it homed in on us pretty well.

Once we knew kind of where we were and where we were supposed to be going, the drive wasn't too bad. It wasn't as awful driving as everyone seems to tell us. I wouldn't have wanted to do it, but the girlfriend didn't seem to be having any problems with it. In fact, she seemed to be having fun. We went north on Hudson and then 8th Avenue, before turning east on 23rd Street. We continued along 23rd to the FDR Freeway, and then pretty much just hoofed it north out of the city. I wish we'd had a little more time to plan our route, because it would have been very easy to adjust a bit and go down some of those streets that we've heard so much about, but never seen.

One big thing we noticed was that the city was pretty clean. We'd heard that it was kind of dirty, and my mom had commented that she didn't like New York because it just smelled bad. Well, I'm guessing they've cleaned it up a lot since she's last been there, because we rolled the windows down as we rolled down 23rd, and it smelled fine. I mean, it's still a big city, and you can smell a lot of the things like exhaust and odd food smells and such that you will in any big city, but it certainly wasn't anything all that unpleasant. We only saw a small sampling of the city, of course, but we didn't see anything that's going to make us stay away in the future.

As we drove along, I was snapping pictures all over the place like an idiot tourist. Of course, that's pretty much what we are, but I'm sure some of the locals were still looking at us and just shaking their heads. The girlfriend realized that we were right next to the Flatiron Building at one point, and asked me to take a picture of the front of it. Unfortunately, I brain-faded at that point and didn't realize that was the building with the weird angle, and I missed the shot. Instead, I pretty much just got a picture of one of the sides. In any case, there are a bunch more photos on Flickr, but here are some of the highlights. Sorry some of them have the dark band on the top from the windshield, but I was looking up a lot more than usual...


The Chelsea Hotel, which the girlfriend wanted me to take a picture of. I didn't intentionally go for the "artistic slant"; I was just hanging backward out the window and that's the best I could do:


This is the face of the Flatiron Building, rather than the "front" of it that the girlfriend wanted a picture of:

A statue along the side of 23rd Street:

Eventually, we got to the FDR Freeway, where we could see Queens across the river:

That's also where we had our best view of the Chrysler Building, which wasn't really that much of a view:

I think this is the Triborough Bridge, although now it's been renamed the JFK Memorial Bridge:

Kind of an interesting looking rock wall along the freeway:

While we were driving along, there was this interesting set of four red and white smokestacks across the river. This was the best shot I could get of them:

And here's a little lighthouse, or beacon, at least, along the river:

I'm not really sure what this odd cylindrical building is:

Getting ready to head onto the Triborough Bridge, heading toward Brooklyn:

A lot of the rest of the way out of New York looked like this on one side of the freeway:

And like this on the other:

In all, it only took us about an hour to get through New York City, including the little bit of time when we were lost. That's a whole lot less time than we had expected to take, and it was a good thing, because Connecticut was next...

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America runs on Dunkin'...

We're stopped at a Dunkin' Donuts in Edison, NJ. We passed one earlier that advertised free internet, but unfortunately this one does not. The donuts are quite good, though, and it appears that there are nearly as many Dunkin' Donuts around these parts as there are coffee stands in Oregon.

We got a little bit lost getting out of Philly, because sometimes the GPS software doesn't realize that you can't make certain turns and such. In the end, we got out all right, although we didn't go over the Ben Franklin Bridge like I wanted, and we missed the Welcome to New Jersey sign. The girlfriend might have managed to get it out of the side of the window with her camera, but I was having issues trying to get a little charge on my battery so I could take any pictures at all. I did get a shot as we crossed the bridge into New Jersey:

About half an hour after we left Pennsylvania, we stopped for gas. I was a little surprised to see someone come out of the little office to our car, but we found out that New Jersey is the only state aside from my old stomping grounds in Oregon where it's still illegal to do self-service gas. The guy who pumped our gas was a chatty sort. He's the first person I've heard who really had a distinct sort of northeast accent. It was pretty much that stereotypical Brooklyn accent, which I've really not heard much before except in movies and such. I know, I'm easily entertained...

We had a little trouble getting back to the freeway from the gas station, but that's because the GPS kept wanting to put us on the tollway, which we didn't want to be on. But after making a couple of U-turns and pretty much going straight back to where we got off the freeway, we made pretty good time. I noticed that New Jersey, like Maryland, has very nice looking overpasses across the freeway:

I'm used to the plain concrete type things, so the nice stonework is kind of a nice change. Both the girlfriend and I also noticed that it seems like three-quarters of the overpasses have American flags draped on them or attached to the fences. I don't know if that's a northeastern thing or what. I've not seen much of that in either Oregon or Texas. Something to ponder...

After driving the freeway for another half an hour or so after gas, we got off to avoid having to merge with the tollway. Of course, the US highways are a bit slower going, with stop lights and lower speed limits and such, but after spending so much on those couple of toll bridges, we're a little leery of the toll roads. Plus being on the side roads lets us stop at places for lunch, or snacks, at least, and for internet access to try to find our way. Of course, the internet access part isn't happening here, but at least we can get our bearings a bit.

On to New York!

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Philadelphia, Part 2

After leaving the vicinity of Carpenters' Hall, we continued on slowly toward Independence Hall. Both my girlfriend and I were still feeling a bit sore from walking all over Washington yesterday, so we weren't exactly feeling like sprinting around all the historical sites all over the place. At least everything was spaced a little closer together here in Philly.

Some other buildings and such we saw along the way included the Second Bank of the United States:

The Second Bank had this statue of Robert Morris out front:

I know I'm expressing my ignorance of things I should probably know, but aside from the fact that there's a university named after him, I know nothing at all about who Robert Morris is.

This is part of the Library of the American Philosophical Society, founded by Ben Franklin:

Not sure exactly which buildings there are:

Then we were just across the street from Independence Hall:

Unlike when I was a kid and visited with the family, they now have the access to the building itself pretty well controlled, and funneled through one entrance at the front of the building. But here are a few shots from the back, where you can at least stand around in the park-like setting and look at things:

The statue in front of Independence Hall (or really, behind it, I think...):

And here's the spire of the Hall itself:

And the door on one of the side wings:

Once we walked around the front and got inside, I took a few more snaps of the tower and such from much closer. Perhaps too close:

They had these odd little octagonal outhouses. I doubt they were actually operational, but I thought they looked kind of odd sitting out in the plaza:

And here's a plaque they have in the plaza, talking a little about the history and such. If you click it and go to the larger view in the photostream, it is actually pretty legible:

Like the Washington Monument, Independence Hall requires you to get a free timed ticket to take their tour. We had been keeping an eye on the time, and even if we felt like going through the tour, we would have had to run back to the car and feed more quarters into the meter. And, since it appeared that there were a bunch of people waiting for the current tour, we decided that we were just going to have to pass this time around. So, with about twenty minutes left on the meter, we decided to cut our visit short and head back toward the car. I would have liked to have seen the Liberty Bell again, but I didn't think it was worth risking a parking ticket in Philly...

Here's a last parting glance at Independence Hall through the trees:

We saw a number of interesting things as we made our way back to the car. The Pennsylvania Fire Insurance Company building has a modern office building sort of molded around it:

A lot of the buildings have very ornate doorways and ornamentation on the walls:

Another shot of the Second Bank of the United States:

And here's the 18th Century Garden:

We apparently walked past a few other gardens on the other side of the street, but we completely missed them. Honestly, I didn't even see any gardens, only buildings along the street, but the map says they're supposed to be there. I guess it doesn't matter too much anyway, because my battery died right around the time that I was taking the pictures of the 18th Century Garden. So then it was back to the car, and it's time for us to get our show back on the road...

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