Washington

Posted by dunkyb on Friday, 22nd June 2012 at 03:37 GMT
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Well, we traveled to Washington through New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. This involved a ferry (woo! boat!), a monstrously high bridge (this one) and rather a lot of dull tedious roads. Luckily, there were also some nice roads through some farming country, with plenty of locals speeding through helping one slipstream the police.

So we got to Washington. Not as easily as I would normally have expected as my phone (which was naviating us to the hotel) decided to run out of power on the way into town. This left us a little stranded, but happily by the time it was back up and running we were near the hotel. Unhappily the hotel is near the airport and as a result is utterly miserable. Though, it is a fairly short metro ride away from the centre of town.

The centre is much like it's portrayed in Fallout 3 - the Mall is being dug up for some reason, so it does rather look like a Supermutant base. The rest of it is just like the West Wing (which I've never seen).

Over the past couple of days we've seen all the major monuments and Arlington Cemetery (where JFK is buried in a huge-ass plot). The White House is small (as you'd expect). The others are large (as you'd expect). The Washington Monument has a bit of a lean, but I'm told there are pills you can get for that.

Primarily, it's hot. Damn hot! Real hat! So hot I could cook things in my shorts. A little crotch pot cooking (Bonus points for this reference). We've managed to bugger up one metro card by sweating on it too profusely (it was like shoving cooked spaghetti into a cat). We arrive at any location dripping in sweat. Overall, remarkably unpleasant.

Tomorrow my Dad flies back to the UK and I need to decide what I'm going to do with my last week. Current front runner is to head down to Florida and go to Cape Canaveral (and maybe Disney). Any thoughts?

I checkmate your Battleship. Yahtzee!

Posted by dunkyb on Wednesday, 20th June 2012 at 04:11 GMT
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Busy day today. It's late and I've got another busy day tomorrow so I'm going to keep this post brief, yet informative.

1) Went to the battleship (see yesterday's post). It was very large with huge guns. Was unable to fire said guns at a high-rise building - this was somewhat disappointing, the rest of the tour was good fun though.

2) Watched the England football game. It was obviously a bloody goal - I can only assume Terry had threatened the line judge before the game. Rooney was crap (obviously I could have done better, but Roy was unable to select me as I'm out here). Lol France!

3) Went to the local baseball arena, watched the Phillies beat the Colorado Rockies (who comes up with these names). The ground had organ music, which was a plus. Highlight has to be their entertaining mascot: The Phillie Phanatic. He around on a quad bike, thrust his pelvis repeatedly at the opposition team (whilst mimicking their technique), mocked the umpires (before the game, seems risky to me).

Tomorrow you should look at me, as I'm going to be sailing on a boat.

Forty Days. And Forty Nights. And another Day.

Posted by dunkyb on Tuesday, 19th June 2012 at 03:19 GMT
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Just left a brewery/bar in Philadelphia. Damn good beer, excellent food - the whole place is highly recommended. Just round the corner from the hotel, which is also rather nice.

Another very nice hotel - always a nice feature when they let you use the business lounge to drink their free beers and wine. Somewhat less common to find a bottle of wine waiting (on ice, of course) for you in your room when you get back after a short amble around town. Not sure when I'll get round to drinking that one!

Philadelphia seems nice - it's bustling with energy, the streets are narrow so the buildings tower over you, but in a slightly less extreme fashion than most of Manhattan. We strolled from the hotel to the riverfront, finding the USS New Jersey on the other side (so that's tomorrow morning's entertaining sorted). Our side of the river only had a 1890's Battleship (and a 1940's submarine). We decided the best bet was to grab a 'Happy Hour' beer from a bar overlooking these fine nautical exhibits.

Earlier in the day we drove through some of the Amish areas in Lancaster County (Lancaster itself was a bit of a let-down - everything is closed on a Monday). The countryside was far more pleasant though. Rolling hills, tidy farms, excellent soft pretzels (by far the best I've had) sold by an Amish woman from her shop. Lots of people living alongside the modern world and happy in their version of it. They all looked remarkably cheerful (but I bet they still kick the dog when they get home after a tough day!).

Gettysburg Address

Posted by dunkyb on Monday, 18th June 2012 at 03:32 GMT
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Four score and thirteen hundred and sixty minutes ago our father and us headed to Gettysburg.

OK, I'm not even doing to try and keep that one going for the rest of this post (for the post, by the post? No, stop it!).

Anyway, as you may have figured, we went to Gettysburg today, it's a small town in South Pennsylvania that hosted (after fighting off many other cities for the honour) of the bloodiest battle in the American Civil War.

The whole area surrounding the town is now a National Park, so immaculately preserved and excellently signposted. We'd heard about a 'self-drive-auto-tour' which seemed like the obvious place to start and went off on a 24 mile jaunt around the fields surrounding the town. Each important point of the battle was flagged up and explained (and each area was littered with memorials explaining the various units engaged in the battle. At this point it's worth dropping a few stats, just to prove I was playing attention, roughly 150,000 men were engaged in the battle, with nearly 50,000 casualties. From what I could tell from reading the various memorials, your best bet was being in the artillery reserve, as long as the other side didn't decide on a spot of counter-fire.

We moved through the fields and read up on each day of the battle, culminating in 'Pickett's charge' - 12,000 Confederate men advancing across 0.75miles towards the Union lines. Uphill. In tight formation. Into massed cannon fire. I'm no military expert, but I can't see that ending well. It didn't. 7,000 casualties rapidly ensued and the Confederates headed back down south.

There was also a rather excellent museum, complete with film narrated by Morgan Freeman (though he wasn't selling any insurance this time round..).

Overall, a very interesting day.

Tomorrow we are headed in a Philadelphia direction (in fact, so closely that we're planning on reaching Philly and staying there). We're hoping to take a detour through Amish country, so I shall be practicing my ice-cream painting!

Day Thirty Nine

Posted by dunkyb on Sunday, 17th June 2012 at 03:47 GMT
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Well, my cold hasn't been responding to minimal beer and lots of sleep, so today was another short day.

We visited 'Steamtown' this morning. Miles of rusting tracks with extremely rusty steam trains on them. Lots of information about how the railroads, coal mines and iron refineries supported each other until bit by bit the links fell and the whole area was left a post-industrial wasteland. Even the General Dynamics ammo manufacturing plant (which the security seemed to think was fully operational) was rusting and looked like it had closed several decades ago.

A quick blast through the mountains to Harrisburg followed. Well, almost Harrisburg, more like 2 miles away on the wrong side of a rather wide river. No matter, Harrisburg wasn't really our destination - we're actually aiming for the civil war battlegrounds around Gettysburg. That's all for tomorrow.

Scranton!

Posted by dunkyb on Saturday, 16th June 2012 at 03:14 GMT
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Nice early start in Albany this morning and straight to the Diner where we lunched yesterday. Luckily the same waitress was there and rapidly recognised us (it appears that pairs of 6 foot plus English guys are somewhat of a rarity in these parts).

Still, that sorted breakfast out. We wouldn't need to worry about food for several hours. After a fairly useless wander around a near-deserted mall looking for a UK to USA plug adaptor we headed south towards Scranton.

Due to my increasing dislike of Interstates, we kept to smaller, more entertaining roads. These first led us through increasingly small villages in the foothills (as the road got curvier and steeper) before firing us through a valley between two of the mountain ranges here.

We were presented with excellent views of tree lined ridges, shimmering lakes with local people settling down for an afternoon with a fishing rod and probably a good book.

Lunchtime (well, ish!) found us in Margretville, in the middle of nowhere (no mobile phone reception for a start!) where we entered what looked like a small, dusty, part-collapsing shack. Only to find a mountain version of Hard Rock Cafe, complete with a (child's) motorbike hanging from the roof. Burgers all round!

Back into the mountains and more roller-coaster roads and only a small amount of time spent lost (which, looking at the tracking map will demonstrate we were actually moving in completely the right direction all along!).

So we came to Scranton, which had some good features: The hotel is inside an old C19th railway station, which is delightful. There were basically no other good features. We shall try the 'Steampark' railway museum tomorrow, but I'm not especially hopeful. Then we shall be away! To somewhere, hopefully less depressing!


Oh, and we caught the last 40 minutes of the England game. Put there weren't any Swedes to mock!

Day Thirty Seven

Posted by dunkyb on Friday, 15th June 2012 at 02:44 GMT
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We've headed inland today, up into upstate New York and ended up at Albany. It's the state capital and quite a surprise.

The road here was fairly dull (at least initially, it did get more interesting as we got out of Massachusetts) but the city itself is a pretty damn interesting place. Lots of 'old' (by american standards) buildings and then in the middle of town, right by the historic Capitol Building is this bizarre concrete plateau.

Apparently in the 60s, the Mayor was embarrassed that the city wasn't as eye-catching as he wanted, so built this delightful, North Korean-style series of marble and concrete towers around a shallow lake, surrounded by surreal 70s artworks. There's even a concrete building shaped like a pagoda at one end, which should really have a 200 ft statue of the Dear Leader on top of it.

The whole area is rather strange - you can easily imagine it filled by worker drones in red jumpsuits praising whatever cult it celebrates. And this is the State Capital for New York?! Quite an entertaining find.

Aside from the odd moment of self-obsession the rest of the city is nice. There was a free concert on at the riverside park and we found an excellent restaurant for dinner inside of a Brewery (complete with the brewer ambling round the vats making the beer). I can hear another street concert playing some way from the hotel (OK, that might get annoying when I go to bed, but for now it's a sign that there's some 'culture' around).

Tomorrow we'll head into the mountains towards Scranton (made 'famous' by Sammy Davis Jr in Sweet Charity).


Day Thirty Six

Posted by dunkyb on Thursday, 14th June 2012 at 04:15 GMT
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So, Cape Cod today. And rain. The weather has been pretty damn miserable, so we drove out on the peninsular to see some beaches (and some more areas settled by the Pilgrims).

What did we see? Rain mostly. Quite a few trees. Several sand dunes. One nice beach (with quite excellent skipping stones - I peaked at a seven bouncer). We also saw a couple of seaside resorts, which were as miserable as all seaside resorts are when it's raining.

The undisputed highlight of the day (not counting a rather tasty pizza for dinner) was Chatham harbour, where they still fish for cod offshore. The harbour itself wasn't hugely exciting, but it did contain several seals who splished around much to the amusement of the six tourists watching them. Aside from one poor chap who was being harangued by his girl-friend for missing the 'perfect' photo.

We're heading inland tomorrow, may even find some mountains!

Day Thirty Five

Posted by dunkyb on Wednesday, 13th June 2012 at 03:29 GMT
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Very easy day today. Had a lie in before driving to Boston to pick up my Dad from Logan airport. He was through immigration remarkably quickly and we made it to Plymouth by about 1500.

Plymouth is a fairly small, quiet town. The most notable feature is a rock with '1620' carved into it. It's supposed to be the rock that the Pilgrims first stepped onto as they reached the unknown lands. Well, maybe. It's also a fairly small rock made of two smaller rocks badly concreted together. In any case, it wasn't an especially exciting tourist attraction!

We found a bar near the harbour for dinner and a few beers - then rapidly found ourselves running out of energy and ready for bed. Not even the spectre of a Baseball game on TV could keep us awake!

Day Thirty Four

Posted by dunkyb on Tuesday, 12th June 2012 at 04:27 GMT
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Thirty Four?!? Bloody hell! That's over a month! I've been here over a month and what the hell have I achieved?!

Quite a lot actually. For a start I'm sleeping well, which is always nice and pretty damn rare in my line of work. I've watched two great motorsport races and cheered on the winner in one of them (and to be honest, noone expect Sato to actually win, no matter how close he got). The last week or so was spent with my wife on a circuit of northwestern Canada (I've got a lot of time for the country based on what I've seen). But, as I'm sure you're noe pointing out, none of this has to do with today.

So, what did I do today? Well, that's an easy question to answer. I saw some trees.

I left Montreal and headed south, looking at the trees they had there. Little did I know I would soon be in Vermont (OK, I should have looked at a map) where trees were considered more than a pastime. Of course, in Vermont, trees are merely considered to be something pretty to cover their mountains in. Eventually I hit New Hampshire, then I learnt the true meaning of tree coverage.

On the non-tree front, I've seen lots of signs for MOOSE CROSSING and BEAR CROSSING but regretably, no actual mooses (moosees? moosese? mousee? mice?) so far. I'm tempted to head northwards on a Moose hunting expedition, but I can't see it ending well.

Anyway. Tonight I am in Manchester! (this sounds awfully familiar...) In fact, I passed through Croydon on the way here (I was unable to spot any of my three Brother-in-Laws though).

Despite the name, I'm remarkably impressed by Manchester. After a short wander I found an Irish Pub where quiz night was well under way. Luckily a local team adopted me (Hi, TJ, Mike and Dom!) and we managed to finish last (I'm blaming the quiz for insufficient European Geography rounds).

Better news still: They had Speckled Hen on tap. Sure it was stream-flow. Sure it wasn't as good as the real stuff, but unlike pretty much any Canadian beer (and the lack of real beer would really compromise any emigration to Canadia) it had an actual flavour. So I drank a pint. Or two.

Overall, an excellent evening. People were extremely friendly all round. This is certainly one of the most fun towns I've traveled through so far.

Tomorrow I'm briefly off to Boston, only there long enough to pick my Dad up from the airport (Historically it was always the other way round). With any luck I'll wake up in time!