Monday, August 23, 2004

Well, I'm back! And none the worse for wear, except in what I laughingly refer to as my bank account. Here now, for your perusal and amusement, an account of our trip.

We left about 7 pm CST Thursday evening. To plan our trip, I consulted Yahoo! Driving Directions, and it suggested a route which led us to go straight up to Lexington on the Blue Grass Parkway (aka the Mind-Numbing Drive of Sheer Ennui), then on east through West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and then over the G-Dub Bridge into New York City and its immediate environs. Noting that this route included several states which I had never visited, I thought what the heck, why not. Our final destination was New Rochelle's Marriott Residence Inn, where my daughter had a room reserved for her by the fellow in charge of the Beginnings Workshop, or as it's billed on their website, "Americas Leading Arts Experience for Young People". That 's the reason for the trip in the first place- my daughter had been referred to them by a friend who had been a participate in years past to serve as a chaperone/counselor/participate in the workshop. We thought it sounded like a great experience and opportunity for her to pursue her dream, so we mobilized. But getting her up there and staying up there long enough to see her off was the problem.

Anyway, we drove most of the night until I just couldn't do it anymore and checked in to a hotel somewhere in West Virginia. We rose early the next morning (too early- I could have slept a couple more hours easily) and set about to the real drive, through the rest of West Va. and Maryland, on up through New Jersey. It went smoothly, with only a couple of small traffic-related delays, until we got past Baltimore on I-95 North, where we sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic all the way until we were out of Delaware. It took us four hours to get the same distance that it should have taken one or one and a half, tops. Very frustrating, to say the least, and it wasn't even rush hour! There were no accidents that we could see, either, so all we can do is assume that it's like that sometimes on that stretch of road and move on. And resolve never to return that way! Anyway, after we finally got through that mess, we made better time on up through Jersey until we got to the George Washington Bridge, where we encountered another monstrous traffic jam, caused by the toll booth. By now, we were running very late (and adding to this was that Abby didn't really know what to expect when she arrived at the hotel, plus the uncertainty of finding a location somewhere we had never been before), so we became very frustrated and even more tired and put out by this new turn of events. FINALLY, after creeping along for another hour (seemed like more than that, actually), we got over the bridge and into the city, where we fortunately found the hotel without too much wrong turning and cursing. The Residence Inn was a pretty good-sized hotel, right next to a very busy block of town which had been converted into some sort of gaudy Mall-type thing, called (and use your best mullet-rock, hook-em horns voice here) "New Roc City". More on that later. We got Abby checked in, making sure she was gonna be OK and had found other people there for the workshop (it wasn't like an official meeting place or anything like that, it was just where they put up out-of-town participant for two nights), then set out to find our hotel, in nearby Yonkers. After locating our hotel with a little, but not too much difficulty (exacerbated by our fatigue, and some incorrect directions by Holiday Inn's website), we got checked in and went straight to sleep sometime about 1:30 am. In case you're wondering, they had no other vacancies at the Residence, which is why we didn't stay at the same hotel as our daughter. Of course, when we get there and checked her in, the desk clerk informed me that they had rooms now due to several cancellations. Of course. Also of course, we had already made our reservations elsewhere and didn't want to have to pay for a room we wouldn't stay in (too late to cancel, y'know), so I declined through clenched teeth.

The next day, we checked in with Abby, who had a meeting all day, and arranged to meet up with her that evening when she got back to her hotel. A line of thunderstorms was moving through the area, causing rain most of the day on and off, so after some early morning driving-around we decided to hang out at the room that afternoon and head back to New Rochelle sometime about 5:30 pm. Didn't want to drive around unfamiliar territory in the rain, you know. I had a good nap that afternoon. Sorry, it didn't get more exciting than that for us. Eventually we headed over to the Residence, and decided to explore the New Roc City while we waited. An amazing melting pit of people of all types of races and nationalities, mostly teenagers, not surprising-it is a mall, after all. The place was crawling with security people- I'll bet THAT'S a full-time job! From a shopping standpoint, very disappointing- there were only one or two actual stores that we could find, plus a good-sized grocery store in something like a basement level. There was a big Imax movie theater there, but we figured we wouldn't have enough time to watch anything and not miss Ab when she returned. We ended up looking around in a sports merchandise store, checking out this huge arcade they had on another, and sat down in an Italian restaurant called "Zanaro's" for a beer and some really good rolled-up-in-flaky-dough-type chicken "flutes", recommended by the young lady behind the bar. We watched the Yankees game that I had considered going to on the TV. That killed a little time, and we ended up sitting around in the Residence lobby until Abby FINALLY got back around 8, where we went back to the Italian place for dinner, then after meeting some of her co-workshoppers and making sure she didn't need to see us before she left for the main event (which is taking place up in the Catskills somewhere, in a camp-type setting), we went back to our room in Yonkers, to rest up for the big drive home.

Which went off a lot more smoothly than our drive up, I can tell you. We got back about 10 PM CST last night. People, that's one hell a long, tiring drive. We're seriously considering going further into debt to arrange some sort of flight/room package when we go back next week to see the workshop showcase and bring her home. It sounded especially good about halfway through the hilly state of Maryland, which (I believe) employs three times as many state troopers as other states in the Union, and keeps them out each and every one on the Interstate systems as much as possible. I saw more troopers on Maryland roads in one afternoon that I've seen on the stretch of Interstate highway that I drive every day in Kentucky for three months!

Well, that's the story of my New York Adventure, such as it is. Stay tuned for the sequel, in just 10 days!

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