Friday, August 22, 2008

Day 21: Is it time for zombies yet?

What I have learned from or about the East Coast so far:
  1. People love their Dunken Donuts. I thought this chain had all but died out, considering the only few I knew of in the Portland area either closed or changed into Sesame Donuts. But no, how wrong I was. You can't trip off a curb without turning around to look at the curb you tripped on and realizing that it was actually a Dunken Donuts (don't think too hard about that one, it seemed to make sense at the time of writing). It seems to be the Starbucks of the eastern half of the US, which leads me to my next point...
  2. You can't throw a rock from Starbucks to Starbucks across entire states like you can in the West. In fact, I spent most of the day today just trying to find one between New Jersey and my current location of just east of Maryland so I could post this damn blog. This would be fine if I knew of any other reliable source of wifi.
  3. The East Coast has (mostly) mastered the art of the roundabout, although here they call them rotaries. Whereas us on the left coast see them and think "Oh how quaint and fun, a roundabout!", rotaries make up important intersections here on the right.
  4. Carry cash, but just a few bucks. You never know when you will be innocently driving down a freeway when suddenly you have to pay to continue. Toll roads continue to be the bane of my existence; although I understand the necessity of this evil I do not necessarily agree with their implementation.
  5. Those crazy stereotypical accents do actually exist, but not really in the strength or ubiquity we're led to believe. I must say, though, that when I was served by an attractive young woman back in the midwest that her slight Minnesotan accent made her a bit more attractive. Context is important.
I'm seriously thinking about carrying a notepad around or something, as I'm constantly thinking of great things to post but subsequently forget them before I find the ever coveted wifi...

And yet I still haven't seen the Oregon capitol building
When last I posted I was heading towards Providence, Rhode Island. I arrived in the city and parked near my first attraction, the capitol building. It was very impressive in form, and parking was easy so double points there. While redressing post metal detector, the governor happened to walk in, which was a neat coincidence (side note: apparently he is trustworthy enough not to have to walk through the metal detector). The building has one of the largest free standing marble domes (according to something I read), and inside this dome is adorned with amazing murals and ornamentation.

Around the inside are various mementos from Rhode Island's past, such as the original charter for the state, a bunch of sculptures honoring each branch of the military, and some old roll call books. Of most interest, however, is an original painting of George Washington in the press conference room, by the artist who did the portrait for the one dollar bill. According to a staffer giving a tour to someone else, this painting is only one of two in which Washington is completely pictured standing up, making it worth "a whole bunch, millions probably". Fascinating, to say the least.

He saves children, but not the British children
Being a nice day I decided to tour the city on foot. Providence is a medium sized metropolis, not insanely busy like others here on the East coast, but decently bustling. I walked along the canal over to the Rhode Island Institute of Design, and then up the hill to Brown University ("Down with Brown!"). The walk was pleasant, the universities nice enough in their way (once you've seen one ivy league school you've seen 'em all, right?), and mostly served to work up a nice appetite for dinner.

I ate not far from the capitol building at the Union Station Brewery, so called because it is built out of an old railway building downtown. The food was good (probably a bit overpriced, but then again the atmosphere was a little classier than I had expected), and the Half Day IPA I had was decent but a bit weak in taste for what it claimed to be. What it lacked in taste it seemed to make up for in alcohol content because I had to walk around the mall for a few hours, reading magazines in Borders, until I was sober enough to drive.

Out of Providence I headed west into a beautiful sunset (brilliant and orange, nicely contrasted with deep blues) and drove for a few hours into Connecticut. All the excitement of the past couple days apparently made me completely forget to visit Jamestown while I was in the area. Oh well, next trip right?

I headed south west towards Bridgeport. Now, again, I must admit that I was not thinking entirely clearly. Looking at the map I thought to myself "Hey, Bridgeport! Isn't that a brewing company that makes a cheap yet very decent IPA?" Well, the answer as I later remembered was yes but no. The Bridgeport Brewing Company I had in mind is actually located only a few thousand miles to the west, in Portland. Oh well.

I like this.
I stayed for the night in what I thought was a Super 8, but I must have misread the sign because where I actually stayed was a Super Shady. My neighbor was either having heated arguments all night, or had the TV extremely loud, the bathroom door only shut with an enormous amount of force, and there were all kinds of nefarious looking people hanging around in the parking lot. In the morning, I could hear my aforementioned neighbor talking on the phone, the conversation going something like this:

"Man that was bullshit, I had the money but the stuff was crap. Then the cops showed up and we had to bolt. Blah blah blah some more nonsense probably about other illegal activities."

I knew I had a bias against Super 8 in favor of Motel 6 for some reason, this just reminded me why. They also charge more.

Knowing now that Bridgeport was not the destination for me (and actually, according to Wikitravel, is quite the hot bed of criminal activity), I continued west, with a slight northern tilt out of Connecticut and into New York. I decided that I was going to skip New York City this trip; there is far too much to see there, and I would honestly prefer to not have my car with me to worry about. However, because of where I was, this meant a long detour around what I guessed to be the busier highways. Like usual I tried to avoid the interstates as much as possible, and as a consequence had a very enjoyable drive through the country side. New York and New Jersey actually have quite beautiful landscapes outside of the cities.

My plan was to hit up Atlantic City that night, but I really wanted to book ahead some place to stay so I wouldn't get bent over again and pay far too much for a sub par room. I ended up booking a room at a Motel 6 just east of Philadelphia. I checked in there first, did some work to justify the cost, then headed back east towards the bright lights of Atlantic City.

First impression of the skyline: impressive, at least from about 5 miles out. One casino in particular used the entire building as a giant display screen, animating all kinds of scenes in color. It seems this would get pretty frustrating for those trying to actually sleep there, but I'm sure the engineers worked something out (no windows in the rooms maybe?).

When I got to what appeared to be a "main drag", I was duly unimpressed. Granted it was a Thursday night, but the streets were mostly empty. My worries about finding any kind of parking vanished as I was able to park at a metered spot on the street. I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to insert coins into the meter, but luckily in 20 minutes it wouldn't be enforced anymore so I figured I was safe.

I speculated that the reason the streets were so empty was that everyone was inside gambling, so I entered one of the first casinos I came upon, The Resort. I was partially right. The casino itself (and in fact, all of the ones I went in) offered your standard sensory overload experience. I'd estimate that about a third of the machines were occupied, and maybe half the tables open for play.

Not pictured: dozens of cart pushers walking around empty,
trying to get couples to take a ride.
When I got to the back I was reminded that Atlantic City has a boardwalk! I had found the people, albeit still not an overwhelming amount. The boardwalk reminded me of an old, slightly run down year long carnival, particularly down the steel pier. Manning the rigged gaming booths were employees who looked extremely bored, most leaned against the wall, a few chatted with one another, and one girl sat on the counter, speaking to no one in particular through her loud speaker that she was looking for a winner. One man called to me, saying he'd give me a free through at his dart game. I figured he would try to charge me eventually, but I thought what the hell.

"Bored, eh?" I ask him.
"Something like that, here ya go, five bucks out of my pocket."
The first dart I throw bounces off a balloon and sticks into something behind the counter.
"Here," as he hands me a second dart, "That's ten bucks out of my pocket."
This one sticks in the board between a couple of balloons.
"Did I mention I'm crap at darts?" I say.
"I can see that, here fifteen bucks out of my pocket." He slides over a third dart.
Determined not to be outdone by a bunch of under-inflated carnival balloons, I hurl this one hard and worry less about aiming. I finally pop one.
"Alright," he says as he hands me two more darts, "pop these next two and I'll give you a prize." He mumbles something else, but I can't understand it. After politely asking him to repeat himself ("what?" I ask), I figure that whatever it is I can't understand has something to do with me paying him if I fail to complete my task. I say thanks but no thanks (what do I want with a stuffed something-or-other anyway?), and walk away.

Further down the boardwalk is more of the same; a lot of sitting about waiting for the next sucker. I pass a fortune telling store front where about six people sit around doing nothing in particular. I think to myself that they at least should have had the foresight to predict such a slow night and not bothered even coming in.

Shooting from the hip so as not to get kicked out
After walking a couple miles up and down the boardwalk, I pack it in and begin to head back. I leave without having my wallet or car stolen, so I consider it a win. All in all, I'd rank Atlantic City above Reno, but definitely below Vegas. I imagine there is some kind of official hierarchy among these cities of sin which mandates what kind of image they put off. Not so much a conspiracy as just an understanding that they will cater to different folk.

This morning, after a delicious breakfast at the local Baaahhb Ehhvaahhns, I somehow found myself nearly completely lost in north Philly...

Beard status: I have a lot more red and white hairs than I remember having last time I grew it out. Either my face is feeling two thirds patriotic or I'm getting older. I'm leaning towards the former.
Approximate miles (one of these days I'll actually get the real number): ~5800 and in need of a service soon.
Music to listen to while reading this post:
Incubus - Make Yourself
The Decemberists - Picaresque
Thrice - The Alchemy Index II & III
Something Corporate - North
Jack's Mannequin - Everything in Transit
Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer


Lynsey said...

how can you be lost?! you have a GPS system!

ps. what happened to the note book i gave you? punk ass.

g said...

Dude, Jamestown is in Virginia! You can totally still make it.

Thats cool you stopped in Providence... those tiny states deserve tourists too, haha.

Enjoy the trip man...

Cate said...

Two things:

#1: I second: "Down with Brown!!"

#2: Are you still lost right now?

colin douglas said...

Damn Graham you're right, although there is also a Jamestown in RI...

And Cate, that's right down with Brown, you know we'll be Settlin' it up when I get back; and no I'm not lost currently, but plan to be many more times before I get back (I'll finish the story of lost in Philly after this roast)

Stuart said...

Look out Starbucks, Dunken Donuts is heading to Seattle. Revamped stores and "value" items (means cheap) and coffee on the menu. Thousands of stores out West in the next couple of years. Can't wait to get my teeth into those sprinkle donuts.