Posts Tagged ‘cities’

Slow Day in Santa Fe (Day 124)

November 20th, 2009 Comments off

Slow because of me, not anyone else. Don’t mean to imply it’s a slow town. Slept in, then drove up there. Tried to hit another h*mburger place, but it turns out that the Bobcat Bite is only open Wednesday through Saturday. Oh darn. I got the impression they thought they were doing the world a favor by existing at all.

Santa Fe itself, however, is considerably less self-important.

santa-fe_building-cornerEvery building in town looks like this. Or, at least the corner of every top floor of every building in town. And “town” is pretty narrowly defined as well.

santa-fe_san-miguelTower of San Miguel’s — oldest church in the USA (they say).

santa-fe_san-miguel-frontFull frontal of same.

Highlight of course was hanging out with Ian and Melinda at dinner. Went to Tomasitas for New Mexican food, which was pretty amazing. Not that I have a lot to compare them to, but I’m told the sopapillas there are incredible and I sure didn’t experience anything that would run counter to that claim.

Also: much appreciation to Ian for letting me crash at his killer pad and indulging me in conversations about old MST3Ks, XCom: UFO Defense (the newer, open-source version of which I played at my campsite last night until my batter ran down), and the sticky nature of owning mere licenses to content. Ian, btw, has written the greatest novel ever, which will be coming out in April.


Categories: southwest Tags: , , ,

The Capital of Tennessee is Nashville (Day 108)

November 4th, 2009 Comments off

It’s a pretty capitol and the Bicentennial Mall around it is likewise nicely done. After a few hours, I felt I knew everything there was to know about Tennessee history (through 1996). Apparently Piggly Wiggly, the first self-service grocery store, is a product of Tennessee. Also the UT women’s basketball team won an NCAA title some time. And Tennessee took part in some war in the 1860s. It’s all fading now.

I don’t have much of a connection with Tennessee or anything, but I was in Nashville for a few hours after taking my mom to the airport and before heading over to Rich’s place for dinner, so what else was I gonna do?

Good weather also, btw.

nashville-fountainNot that any of these photos illustrate the fact, but Tennessee is a state obsessed with its own weird shape. And this is a fountain that for some reason symbolizes rivers or something.

nashville-capital-leavesDas Capitol. At which point even *I* will concede that my captions have jumped the shark.


nashville_dunn-tennDunn, Tennessee and Dunn, me.

nashville_parthenon-cornerBecause Nashville is the “Athens of the South”, according to Nashville.

Seems like maybe Athens, Ga. would be the “Athens of the South”. Meh. I wonder how either of them would fare against Sparta. Someone should develop a simulator. I also walked around Vanderbilt campus for a while and decided that it looked like a college campus.

And then dinner with Rich & Jen was great.

And to all a good night.


Categories: south Tags: , , ,

Road Trip Hurricane Wreaks Havoc with New Orleans (Day 105)

November 2nd, 2009 2 comments

Fortunately my headlines jumped the shark a couple months ago, so no need to feel embarrassed by this one.

My mom flew out to New Orleans to join the road trip for a few days, btw. She was the one who insisted we go to the French Quarter. Well, “insisted”. Anyway — it was everything everyone told me it would be (i.e., “a bunch of old buildings and it smells like vomit”).

I’m sure it smelled better before Katrina.

We had a cool hotel, in no small part because the room had its own loft.

new-orleans_hotel-roomSee? Loft.

(Prytania Park Hotel — it’s located right in between the Garden District and Warehouse+Museum District.)

Then we walked to the French quarter.

new-orleans_underpassThere was an underpass along the way!

new-orleans_bike-riderThey have porches like this there.

new-orleans_white-doorA door as crooked as a Louisiana politician.

new-orleans_cathedralSt. Louis Cathedral and tourists taking photos of same.

new-orleans_jackson-sq-carriagesTour carriages lined up at Jackson Square.

I learned that Jackson Square was *meant* to be the town’s center. And then the person who ended up owning the land built buildings on either side of it, but that it wasn’t pretty enough — so she had it beatified (park ranger’s word, not mine).

And I’m still waiting for someone to explain why Andrew Jackson doesn’t net out to be a villain for killing all the Indians he did. (In protest, I no longer use $20 bills.)

new-orleans_cannon-me (2)Me with cannon. Cannon with me.

new-orleans_bourbon-voodooI’m thinking about opening my own voodoo shop in Mission Viejo.

new-orleans_kimball-homeThe New Orleans house my mom grew up in lived in for two years as a kid.


I think the people that love New Orleans so much are people who first went there in college with all their friends and got drunk and partied so that now every time they go there, they remember being 19 and getting drunk and partying with their friends.

It’s basically how I feel about Hohenstein-Ernstthal.

(No, I never got drunk in Hohenstein-Ernstthal — except on my own sense of self-importance, which is much headier anyway.)



Charleston Walk-Around (Day 98)

October 24th, 2009 1 comment

Spent about five hours on Thursday just walking around Charleston. I downloaded a walking tour guide and, from what I overheard of the other tour guides passing me, I think the downloaded one was at least as good. Less self-important anyway. Here are some photos, shown gallery-style because it’s so much easier to do that way and I didn’t have snarky comments about these anyway:

It’s a nice town. I now know more about Charleston than any other city in the world, I think. Or at least I did on Thursday. “Genteel poverty” seems like a cool term — I think I might like to have seen that era. The spikes on the top of the wall were put there in case of slave revolt. I can’t really see those spikes helping too much, though. Didn’t those people know they needed barbed wire and glass shards up there instead?

Also, I still felt too burned by Biltmore to spend $x on any of the mansions-for-viewing on my route. There were probably 15 or 20 of the 100 tour entries that had an entry fee if you wanted to go inside.



How to Fix the Great Smoky Mountains (Day 94)

October 21st, 2009 Comments off

There are two main problems with the Great Smoky Mountains:

  1. They’re crowded.
  2. There are too many people there.

Unless you’ve been slavishly watching Ken Burns documentaries or just really know your national parks, there’s some likelihood (that’s safe) that you may not know that Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited park in the system. Frex (this was on a rainy weekday in October):

great-smoky_congestionOTOH: fall color!

So here’s what I propose to fix the problem:

  1. Charge an entrance fee.
  2. Wipe Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge off the face of the earth — or just relocate them to some other part of Tennessee.

Most other parks charge an entrance fee. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me that every park out west charges $10-20 for a week’s admission, but *the* *most* *popular* park of all has no fee at all and also just happens to be overcrowded. I think the parks should be self-funding and to certain extent other parks in the system are. I’m not sure why the rest of the country needs to subsidize the South’s park-going (the vast, vast majority of Great Smokies park-goers are southern; those who weren’t were generally from Ohio or Illinois, which basically seem like southern states to me).

As for Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, the two towns closest to the park on the Tennessee side — man. Here’s Gatlinburg in mid-October:

escape-from-gatlinburgSuch compelling strip low- to mid-range hotels!

These towns are some sort of strange haven for the blue-collar white middle-class. I know this sounds snobbish, but — these places are horrible. Overrun with people and their cars, the only thing the towns offer are a(n admittedly curiously) vast variety of miniature golf places and pancake houses. As a result, Sunday afternoon traffic was frequently immobilized from the park exit all the way to the freeway (at which point it moved just fine). We abandoned our hopes of visiting Cade’s Cove as a result.

Eh. I guess another solution would be to just never try and visit the park from the Tennessee side, but what fun’s that? This country demands drastic, memorable solutions, so: push the button, glass Gatlinburg.

Dropped my bro off at the airport in Knoxville. Stopped *very* briefly in downtown on my way out to take this ill-lit photo:

knoxville_sun-sphereSweet vestiges of 1982!

Contrary to popular belief, however:

  1. I found no sign in Knoxville welcoming me to the “Wod Fir”.
  2. I found no evidence that the Sun Sphere is, in fact, filled with wigs.

I understand that there are the “second Sun Sphere” conspiracy theorists out there, but whatever.

It’s not exactly the Space Needle, either, you know? I mean, the thing’s all of five stories tall. And you also don’t have to drive over sidewalks to illegally park at the Space Needle — I found it mandatory in Knoxville after their direction-giving “Parking” signs led me to a no-parking loading dock with walls on three sides. For as polite as southerners are, you’d think they’d figure out how to make useful, accurate, plentiful road signs. OTOH, maybe if you don’t already know, they don’t want you to find out.


Categories: south Tags: , , ,

Colonial Williamsburg, Historical Jamestown, Passable Blog Post (Day 87)

October 12th, 2009 3 comments

Maybe I’m over-selling the blog post.

I thought Williamsburg was absurd, fun, totally absurd, and worth a day. It’s wacky to walk around with a bunch of other tourists and then have all these ren-fair types also there talking about the revolution currently underway. I stood in line (for ten minutes!) so I could sit in an originaly, 18th-century house wherein two guys dressed up as British colonels talked about what it was like to currently be under house arrest, how they were being gawked at by locals, and how surprised they were to see the entire Continental Army amassing in town, including that short French fellow. I should have gone to the event called “Loyalist Travail”: a Loyalist doctor and his family are harassed by citizens as they try to slip out of town. I bet that one was rich.

Ah, but it was fun and absurd. Just absurd. I miss it already. It was sad walking back over that bridge into the lousy, freakish 21st century. Age of Enlightenment, *that’s* the epoch for me. Oh well.

All of Virginia and only four cells for felons!

I feel like I need to go back to Williamsburg — I could do it so much better next time around. Again, oh well.

williamsburg_bridgeAs you cross the bridge from the Visitors Center to town, you travel back in time!

williamsburg_underpassSo imagine my surprise when, despite being in 1781, I had to walk under an underpass with cars flying by overhead. I suspected witchcraft.

williamsburg_palace-greenThe Continental Army had arrived Friday night. Seriously. If I’d been there Thursday, these tents wouldn’t have been around. Sunday night, they “marched off to Yorktown”.

williamsburg_governors-palaceThe governor’s palace. I think the governor was on his way back to London, though.

williamsburg_courthouse-coachThe county courthouse. The most common offense was skipping church.

williamsburg_washingtonGeneral Washington surveys the… tourists. If you look lost, he’ll offer to help, but will probably end up just pointing somewhere and saying “that way”.

williamsburg_capitalThe capitol. This is where the House of Burgesses met, when it pleased the governor. And then once they got rid of the governor, it’s where whatever the Va representative government called itself at the time met.


williamsburg_rochambeauThe short French fellow (Rochambeau), I think.

One of the coolest things about the experience is that, if you want to, you can avoid introductory sessions and not read much and instead just walk around town and try to figure out what’s going on, why there are soldiers camped out on the lawn, why there’s a guy dressed up like Washington running around on a horse, why there aren’t (m)any redcoats around. There are also other interesting details you can pick up on if you want to — there was a guy with a team of oxen and a cart with what looked like a coffin in it. He paraded it around for most of the morning, but in the afternoon, he made his delivery — to the jailhouse. Absurd and fun.

The only problem I had with Williamsburg is that it took me a while to figure out what the game was. It’s a cool game, though. I’d like to go there again some day.


As for Jamestown — I’d always wondered why they decided to start their town in a malarial, bug-infested swamp. Now having been there — it’s not only a bug-infested swamp, but it’s a bug-infested swamp with no fresh water sources. Crazy. They founded the colony there because the river was deep enough close to shore that they could tie the ships on to trees. Walking the plankway over the swamp to Fort James, there were clouds of bugs — clouds, like you couldn’t breathe without inhaling bugs. Right: crazy.

There’s not a whole lot to see there (I just went to the Parks Service part — I figured I’d seen a solid display of “living history” at Williamsburg) given that the town was basically abandoned in the 18th century when Williamsburg became the capital. Actually — it’s kind of nice to have this abandoned, broken, archaeological site around and in such proximity to Williamsburg. Two sides of the same coin, interesting contrast, etc.

jamestown_graveyardThe graveyard inside of Ft. James at Jamestown.

jamestown_john-smithJohn Smith, looking longingly back to England.

John Smith seemed like an interesting character. Was a prisoner of war in Russia while serving in the Hungarian army, then escaped prison and returned to Hungary before becoming the guy that sort of led the Jamestown expedition and then colony. Apparently also sort of a jerk, although the display wasn’t very specific about that.


My Morning, Harpers Ferry (Day 81)

October 9th, 2009 1 comment

I used to love doing headlines. That seems like a long time ago. Now? I’m all about second paragraphs.

[Paragraph Redacted]

I dunno. Something about the Civil War, big armory, company town, Confederates making sure it was destroyed all the time, John Brown, railroads, a trans-continental canal, lots of floods, then someone deciding to move the town somewhere so that it wouldn’t keep getting destroyed all the time. Oh well.

harpers-ferry_main-streetMain Street.

harpers-ferry_raised-trackRaised railroad tracks. No, really! They run between Main Street and the river. I think Shenandoah (River). Eventually they cross the Potomac (eventually = a few hundred yards later).

harpers-ferry_catholic-churchThe scaffolding around the church tower adds a uniquely European touch to the scene.

harpers-ferry_ped-bridgeBridges have interesting lines.

harpers-ferry_episcopal-churchEpiscopal church.

harpers-ferry_episcopal-cloudEpiscopal cloud.

It was a nice half-day place. Had lunch at one of the taverns or whatever in the non Parks Service part of town: pulled pork sandwich. Was pretty good, but hilariously overpriced. I also ordered (tap) water.

Also of note: the drive from my campsite in Western Maryland (nice showers!) to Harpers Ferry marks the last time I’ll use my GPS. Garmin’s not very good at giving directions. She dropped me off in the middle of a country road in Maryland and told me it was the Harpers Ferry Visitors Center in West Virginia. Essentially. Probably not as dangerous as the time she dragged me up into the maze of unmarked logging roads in pursuit of Mt. St. Helens, but still. Also probably not as bad as when she told me the speed limit was 70 when it was, in fact, 25. Or the multiple times she’s told me to enter the freeway via the offramp. Plus she’s so smug about it. But anyway. Hopefully REI will still take it back. I still have the box, I think. Moral: don’t buy Garmin.


My One Trite Photograph of Philadelphia (Day 80)

October 7th, 2009 Comments off

The horrible part is that these dopey posts about big, unfriendly east coast cities are keeping me from blogging about Antietam, which I actually liked. I mean, in a solemn, respecful way: “liked”. Or anyway, I like the photos I got there.

Problems with Philadelphia:

  • Badly planned streets.
  • Expensive parking.
  • Bad signage.

Otherwise seemed pretty nice. The downtown penitentiary was an unusual touch, but… Nah, I wasn’t all that impressed with Philadelphia. The historical area seemed overrun with tourists, but there wasn’t all that much there to hold anyone’s (anyone’s = my) interest. I would’ve been more excited by a memorial to Santa Claus booings or something that I more readily associate with modern Philly.

independence-hallChillin’ at Freedom Hall.

I’m guessing if Benjamin Franklin were alive today he wouldn’t live in Philadelphia. He’d live tax-free in the Caymans.

Oh, I also looked at the Liberty Bell, but I decline to post a photo since, well, it’s a bell with a crack in it and it’s not like you can get a clean frame showing the bell and less than fourteen tourists. Eh. Plus I was over Philadelphia by then so I wasn’t into trying real hard. I paid a total of, like $27, to park during the total of 2.5 hours I was there. Sort of my bad, but sort of Philly’s bad also. That never would’ve happened in Bemidji.

I’ve also noticed that the entire eastern US is a usability nightmare. No helpful signs anywhere. At Liberty Hall, the first corner I approached had a sign saying “No Entry”, but it didn’t say where I *could* enter. So I walked around the building counter-clockwise finding “No Entry” signs at everything that looked like it should have been an entrance until I got almost all the way back to the spot where I started. Once there, I saw the sign saying “Enter Here — Ticket Required”. No, the tickets were not available there. You had to walk two blocks away to the Visitor’s Center. And don’t get me started on the road signs.


Luger Burger (#2!) and a Brooklyn Photo (Day 79)

October 4th, 2009 Comments off

The PATH train always seems so convenient until you’re under the Hudson, at which point you realize that it takes a long time to get from Jersey City to NYC. Like 10 minutes, but still. Anyway, here’s the #2 burger in all creation:

luger_burgerCheck out how thick that bacon is! (It’s the white and slightly pink thing at the bottom, the last layer before you hit bun.)

  • The burger fell apart too easily.
  • It was better once I pulled the bacon out.
  • Not as expensive as I thought it was going to be ($13 burger, $4 fries, $3 drink — yes, that’s less than I expected).
  • I liked the fries — they were solid.
  • The burger came sans condiments and this time I went with the flow and kept it pure. Maybe I should’ve used the steak sauce tureen they brought out with the bread and water at the outset, though.
  • The saltedness seemed appropriate for the burger at hand.

It was good, but I liked the J.G. Melon one better. Peter Luger’s is world famous for its meat, but I was disappointed when my hamburger patty broke apart and fell out of the bun. I think they knew I wasn’t local. Maybe I should’ve just ordered the porterhouse after all. (No! I must complete the burger list!) (But I won’t on this trip regardless!)

I haven’t spent much time in Brooklyn, but I liked looking around. The restaurant is in Williamsburg, which is about 50% gentrified, 50% Puerto Rican. Interesting combo. The streets aren’t packed with people, so it would probably afford some nice, somewhat-rundown cityscape photography. It’d be gritty and cool — but all I brought was my cell phone.

I want to go back some time so I can re-take this photo with a better sky (and better camera and hopefully better light):

williamsburg_bridgeI like how flat it is.

That’s the Williamsburg Bridge — I don’t think I’ve ever been on it. Can’t really remember where in Manhattan it takes you — Bowery? I could look it up. Could.

One of the things I like about NYC and that this trip to Brooklyn reminded me of is that the city seems infinite. You could spend your life walking around it and still not see everything (maybe). ‘Course, there are parts you don’t want to explore, so maybe check those out during daylight hours and while you’re young enough to fight back.


PS, Went to dinner with Felice from my Michigan State month on Day 78. Was cool, good food, fun night.

Oh, Sweet Liberty, Let Your Bright Flame Shine the Heck On! (Day 78)

October 4th, 2009 5 comments

If I weren’t still sick, I would probably hold back, act circumspect, and shine bright, happy lights on the events of Day 78. But I *am* still sick, therefore: visiting the Statue of Liberty is the national monument equivalent of waiting 45 minutes to get fried meatloaf on toast.

  • You need a reservation to see the crown or pedestal.
  • Crown reservations must be secured two months in advance (the next available was December 11th).
  • When you get to the boat, you have to go through TSA-style screening.
  • Then you have to wait for the boat.
  • When you get to the statue, there are no signs telling you where to go for your pedestal tour.
  • When you ask the Parks Service person where the line is, he’ll ignore you because he’s just seen someone he would rather talk to.
  • Then you get to wait in line.
  • The first line takes about 15 minutes, and then they’ll open up the cordon and let people into the next holding area.
  • This line takes probably 45 minutes to wait through.
  • At the end of this line, you go through airport-style super-security, where they blow air on you for some reason and act all serious about it.
  • Then you get to enter the statue — the stairs to the pedestal take about ten minutes, and a self-tour of the pedestal itself deserves about five more.
  • Then you go back down and get in line to get on the boat to go back.
  • The boat is slow and, if it’s heading to Manhattan, very crowded.
  • And it’s taken you six daylight hours just to get about five minutes of good part.

If I weren’t sick, I’d probably talk about the spectacular views during the boat-ride over, but since I’m sick: it was cloudy, the sun’s in the wrong place for half the trip, and, on this day at least, there were no Sully landings to break up the monotony. The best part was seeing European tourists at Ellis Island and wondering whether they understood that it’s a monument to people who said “Europe sucks so bad that I’m gonna live somewhere else” and then acted on that sentiment.


sol_docksThe docks at Liberty State Park. You can choose to depart from NJ or Battery Park. This is NJ.

sol_giant-pigeonA giant pigeon swoops in to attack the Woolworth Building. (He’s already missed the Woolworth Building — next pass, maybe.)

sol_unfed-birdA bird, unfed.

sol_from-boatDoesn’t look so big when you compare it to the *sky*, now, does it?! (Actually, it doesn’t look that big when you’re anywhere near it, either, IMHO. It’s barely even taller than the Colossus at Rhodes was.)

sol_statue-of-liberty-backThe backside of Liberty.

sol_statue-of-liberty-bookLooking up her skirt reveals little of interest.

sol_statue-of-liberty-slant-skyLean into it.

I also took about 30 or 40 photos of lower Manhattan and the SOL with some sort of aircraft in the frame so that I could make (more) jokes about stuff crashing into other stuff. It *is* amazing how many aircraft still buzz around that place (mostly helicopters and MD-80s).

And this is the house I used to live in:

10-hanoverI was in apartment 9-V — you know, like the battery.

But most importantly, I can check the Statue of Liberty off the list. And to all a good night.


PS, The worst part of the SOL experience is that it stole so much of my available NYC time (and virus-depleted energy). I blame the French.

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