Click for larger imageFriday:

The clouds returned to Provincetown in time to foreshadow the events of the day.  The wind picks up as I eat breakfast near the beach, bending the beach grass and snapping the flags near the pier.

I offer a ride to Richard, a new acquaintance who lives in New York.  We head south after disassembling the rear seat to make room for luggage.  Richard, a Rhode Island native now transplanted to New York, assures me we'll be heading the opposite way of traffic and move through the city with relative ease.  We speed across Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. 

Click for larger imageThe beauty of New England rapidly gives way to the strip malls and factories of the industrialized states.  The factories are long idled and converted to outlet stores.  (I wonder to myself how long an economy can survive on service sector jobs.  Where did all those factory workers go?)  The scenery grows progressively shabbier with the passing miles.

We reach the outskirts of New York at just past two o'clock.  I pull over for fuel and food before approaching the Big Apple.

I have never visited New York before and I have little data on which to evaluate the city.  My first impression isn't favorable and like Boston I have a considerable period of time in which to make this evaluation.  Just inside the Bronx traffic stops and we barely move for the next three hours.  The Bronx appears to consist largely of brick highrises built without regard to landscape or aesthetic appeal. 

Click for larger imageThe lack of anything visually interesting leads me to search through the radio bands for audio stimulation.  I catch a snippet of a commercial for Pilates.  I turn to Richard and ask:  "What is Pilates?"

"Oooh...Look!  He's driving a new Pilates!"

"I'm sorry, Sir, it appears you have contracted Pilates."

"Mr. and Mrs. Pilates are coming for dinner and bringing baklava."

"The philosopher Pilates is quoted as having said..."

"The cruise took us to Pilates before continuing on to..."

"Yes, my dog is a rare breed of Pilates."

Click for larger image"Would you like a salad with your Pilates?"

"They're playing the Pittsburgh Pilates next Sunday..."

We kept this up for two hours and two miles.

The clock moves past seven as we reach Richard's apartment - directly across the street from the giant pit which used to support the World Trade Center.  A building across from the pit is shrouded in funereal black.  If I didn't know what happened here I might never guess.  The neighborhood is alive with people and the site appears to simply be another piece of urban renewal.

It is after eight o'clock before I get through the Holland Tunnel and I've been in the car for nearly nine hours.  I can't say I've been driving for nine hours as a good section of the time has been idling in a traffic queue.

Click for larger imageI call MUNI Guy as I head south and it begins to pour rain.  The rain is torrential and the New Jersey drivers ignore it.  I cannot see more than twenty feet ahead of my car and the giant SUVs pass me at eighty miles per hour.  Do they have pile-up wrecks in New Jersey?

MUNI Guy and I chat for miles until I see the sign for the Delaware BridgeDelaware?  Isn't Philadelphia BEFORE Delaware?  I realize I've missed the Philadelphia exit and must backtrack thirty miles.  By the time I negotiate both the freeways and the one-way gridlock of downtown Philadelphia, it is half past eleven.  I check into my hotel at midnight - thirteen hours after leaving Provincetown.

My hotel and Philadelphia are both shabby.  My hotel is understaffed, dirty around the edges with one elevator stuck on my floor bleating a woeful cry every few minutes.  Philadelphia is a maze of one-way streets, many destroyed by permanent construction, decaying buildings and random stop lights.  I suspect, like San Francisco, Philadelphia lives primarily on its reputation and doesn't invest much in current maintenance. 

Click for larger imageSaturday:

I decide against spending the day in the urban wreckage of Philadelphia and opt to try out Amtrak's new Acela train to Washington. 

I manage to locate a taxi and we rumble across Philadelphia while the cabbie barks Russian phrases punctuated by "Yeah, Baby, I got ya, Baby" into his radio.  My first impression of the city is unchanged by the brief tour I have on the way to the station.

Philadelphia's train station, in contrast to the city, is beautiful.  Old trains stations are often grand and this one is no exception.  The main hall is huge and blends conversation into gentle white noise. 

Amtrack introduced the Acela trains one or two years ago.  The streamlined trained offer high-speed travel between New York, Boston and Washington, D.C.  The tickets are more expensive than Amtrak's standard trains and most the passengers appear to be business people.  I board the train and slip into a window seat.  The trainset is new and the seat comfortable.  It moves forward smoothly and I'm on my way to Washington. 

Click for larger image"I've decided to call on the Bushes and see how they are adjusting to Washington," I tell MUNI Guy.  I check to make certain I've brought my extra key to the White House, realize I haven't, and call ahead to ask them to leave one under the mat.

The grey of Philadelphia gives way to sun somewhere around Baltimore.  I arrive in Washington at just past three and wander up to the Capitol.  In a fit of spring cleaning or terrorist induced paranoia, Washington is seized with a frenzy of construction.  Capitol Hill is a maze of fences, closed sidewalks and cherry pickers.  I stumble across a soap box derby competition in time to see a racer named "Oz" sporting a yellow-brick road motif rumble past.  An omen indeed.

I have four hours before my return train and decide to visit the Holocaust Memorial, the one place in Washington I've never been.  All the hot dog vendors out front of the memorial have Middle Eastern names and sell Kosher hot dogs.  I arrive too late to get in and satisfy myself with taking pictures of the tourists and heavyset security guards.

(Have you noticed baby strollers have grown in size to match SUVs?  Content no longer to take up a reasonable portion of a sidewalk, these plastic and canvas monsters are designed to carry an entire video collection, three changes of clothes, twelve plush toys, a cellular telephone and two bottles of water.  They rarely, however, see to be occupied by human children.)

Click for larger imageAlthough Washington is the Capitol of the United States, I feel very little connection to this place. It feels more like a low-admission amusement park than a seat of government. (The front of the Department of Education has been remodeled with red schoolhouses at every entrance to create the image one is walking into the Little House on the Prairie school and not a big, marble building.)  Every corner is occupied by a van hawking T-shirts and caps embroidered with the letters FBI and CIA, reducing these agencies to the level of sports teams rather instead of questionable secret police agencies. 

Back in Union Station, I get cruised and solicited while purchasing books at B. Dalton.  The solicitor is a hunky German in town for a conference.  I can't recall having ever been hit on while purchasing an Agatha Christie novel before.  Was it the book or me?

The Arch Street Meeting House, one of the oldest Quaker meeting houses, is directly across the street from my hotel and I'll spend tomorrow morning visiting the Quakers.  Then I'm off to Pittsburgh...

Road Trip 2003 Statistics
Day Number
21 and 22
Location
Philadelphia
Odometer
Miles to date
Funds Raised
Guess odometer readings, win a valuable prizes.  [More]
Help Sister Betty raise money for some nifty charities...[More]
Join the Road Trip 2003 email newsletter list... [More]
Road Trip 2003 Email Newsletter

The Plan - Road Trip 2003
Itís time for a road trip - a really, really big-ass road trip...[More]
The Route - Road Trip 2003
San Francisco to Maine, twenty two states, two countries and 8,000 miles...[More]
The Vehicle - Road Trip 2003
An itty, bitty car with just enough space for a suitcase, GPS unit and...[More]
Road Trip 2003 Captain and Crew
Who would be crazy enough to drive 8,000 miles in a really small car...[More]
Join in - Road Trip 2003
Read along, ride along or follow along...[More]

 

Scratchings Archive    Stairways of San Francisco     Rail Tripping     Contact Sister Betty