This one day felt like a week. Nothing went right until the very end. I woke up early, eager to leave. I packed the car, hiding the pricey items under the seats and the junk on top of the pile. I don’t own much, and tried to get rid of as much as possible so people won’t peek through my windows and get the urge to rip me off. I sped off at 6am.
One of my goals on this trip is to try to experience a bit of every city I pass through. Philadelphia was the first stop. After a shitload of tolls (The toll to drive through Staten Island alone was $15) I arrived in Philadelphia, 1.5 hours from Brooklyn. I’d settled on the GPS and map function built into my iPhone for navigating. I just typed in “Philadelphia”, and it took me smack dab to the center of downtown. The middle of this city at rush hour is a shitshow that I never want to experience again.
After a series of wrong turns and close calls I managed to maneuver out of downtown into a neighborhood on the outskirts, parked my car, and fed the meter $6. I pulled out my bike and managed to see almost every major building and neighborhood in Philly in two hours. Bikes are an amazing way to explore a new city. There are no parking problems, no traffic issues, always smooth sailing.
I rode back to my car, pumped the meter full again, and went to a little diner in the south end of Philly. I ordered a huge steak, eggs, homemade biscuits, grits, and watermelon. I love diners. The patrons always represent a great cross-section of people living in a particular neighborhood. I had an idea floating around to try out a diner in every city, document my experience, and make a blog about it, but I decided against it. High-calorie breakfast food every day for a month would probably give me a heart attack.
When I returned to my car, a cop was in the process of writing me a ticket. I was only a couple minutes over, but I guess he decided to show no mercy. He gave me a $50 ticket for the meter I’d already pumped about $8 in change into. After he left I noticed the neighborhood was fairly upscale, and I looked like a homeless man living out of my car. That isn’t far from the truth, except I can afford to pay for motel rooms. I figure my car will be a magnet for tickets, so I should probably avoid parking in well-to-do neighborhoods again.
After a few hours in Philly, I hopped back in the car and drove south to Washington D.C. I had to choose between Baltimore and D.C., and didn’t know much about either city, so I flipped a coin and chose D.C. I was paranoid about parking anywhere after the ordeal in Philadelphia. I stopped in a neighborhood outside the center of the city, fed the meter, then just hovered around my car for a half hour, reading the complex mess of signs that said “Parking without payment or within the designated hours will result in towing”, and, “No standing or parking anytime”, and a little passive aggressive sign that said, “If towed call 727-5000”. I didn’t see a sign anywhere defining designated parking hours. I finally just did a lap around the block and left.
The city planner for Washington D.C. must have been high. This is the craziest city I have ever had to drive through. I drove around in big loops and circles through terrible traffic, and half the time wound up exactly where I started. I had the urge to check out the monuments, probably just because that’s what people do there. Through sheer force of will I finally drove into the area, parked, fed the meter in what I thought was a legal parking spot, rushed to the memorial, and rushed back.
From 50 yards away I saw a big yellow ticket on my car and let out a stream of expletives in the middle of the park. Another $50 parking ticket. I couldn’t park on this side of the street on this particular day of the week at this particular time of day.
I just wanted to get out of that city as fast as humanly possible, but I had to drive through three different loops and wait in a line of traffic for half an hour to get on the freeway on-ramp. Then I drove right into rush hour traffic for another three hours. One thing I learned from driving in this city that I will hopefully take with me is this: BE AGGRESSIVE.
I thanked God and Jesus and Buddha when I finally got on to the open road again. Richmond was my final destination for the day. I had reserved a room for the night and was hoping to just sink under the covers and forget the nightmare of a day. My head was so foggy when I got to the front desk that they must have thought I was drunk. I needed a beer and a shot to calm my shattered nerves.
Richmond was like a ghost town at night. I walked around for half an hour searching for an open restaurant or bar and found one place with their lights still on, a pub called Penny Lane. I was surprised that a town this quiet would have a pub as great as this one. I bought a huge fish & chips platter and a very large, cold beer. I started having a nice conversation with the bartender about traveling, comparing places we’d been to and suggesting new ones to each other. Soon I made friends with a few patrons surrounding me at the bar.
Drinking buddy for the night
A girl visiting from Brooklyn told us about the places in Richmond that were haunted, and I suggested my hotel was haunted since it was over 200 years old and I heard loud creaking noises when I entered my room. We veered into a discussion about the true meanings behind “Gone With The Wind”, and how Scarlett O’Hara totally used and abused Brett Butler. We discussed the possibility of extra-terrestrial life and if they are living among us. Near the end of the conversation, after multiple beers and shots, we started comparing the type of reading material we had in our bathroom.
We all talked and drank and bought beers and shots for each other, smoked a lot of cigarettes(and a bit of weed), and had interesting, deep, hilarious conversations until the bar closed at 2:30. It was an amazing end to a shitshow of a day.