Monday, June 29, 2015

COLUMN: East Coast Pt. 1

When I was in college, my friends and I obsessed over the British shoegazer band Ride. Upon their breakup, we made a vow that if Ride were ever to reunite, we would drop whatever we were doing and travel anywhere in the world to see them play. Well, here it is, umpteen years later, and the Ride reunion of our dreams is upon us. There was just one problem: the only U.S. stop on their quickie reunion tour was New York City. But hey, a vow's a vow -- so we all made plans to go. I've never actually seen the movie, but I assumed this would be our "Big Chill," just with a better soundtrack.

Rather than fly out and back, my friend Jason and I decided to drive it, turning the concert into a perfect excuse for a 9-day scenic exploration of New England. I knew it would be an epic and column-worthy trip, so I brought a travel diary with me as a public service to any of you who might one day have to make good on a 20-year-old vow to drive halfway across the country on a whim.

(By the way, as it turns out, most of my friends bailed on our sacred vow because they have kids and lives and stuff. Lamers. And more to point, no sooner had we secured tickets when Ride suddenly announced a full U.S. tour in the fall which will bring them a heck of a lot closer than NYC. Ah well, a vow's a vow.)

Friday, 9 a.m.:  Armed to the teeth with caffeine, Claritin, and way more luggage than 2 people should need for a simple roadtrip, Jason and I depart the Quad Cities. To celebrate the occasion, I have made a wicked playlist full of all the music we listened to in college.

Friday, noon: Come on, Indiana. Is it not enough that we're forced to drive through your terminally boring state? But no, you're actually going to CHARGE us for the honor? Sadly, this is the first of MANY a toll road we would encounter.

Friday, 2 p.m.: It turns out the music we listened to in college is kinda grating these days. We kill my playlist and opt for satellite radio the rest of the trip.

Friday, 3 p.m.: My apologies, Indiana. I take it all back. You are a super exciting state compared to the great expanse of central Ohio.

Friday, 4 p.m.: I didn't expect my first view of Lake Erie to be accompanied by screams of terror. But this is the Sandusky marina, and even from a mile away, you can hear the high-pitched shrieks emanating from the roller coasters of Cedar Point. We contemplate going in, but decide that we'd prefer the contents of our stomachs to remain IN said stomachs.

Friday, 6 p.m.: We are in the land of boat people. Sitting on the deck at Quaker Steak & Lube (a chicken wing joint to rival B-Dubs) in Vermilion, Ohio, it is painfully evident that more folks have floated here than driven. In Vermilion, driveways are secondary to slips, and the laid back vibe is kinda perfect.

Friday, 10 p.m.: We make camp for the evening at an inn with a red roof in suburban Cleveland. As I lay me down to sleep, I'm reminded of the last epic roadtrip I took with friends. That first morning, I woke up fully rested to find my friends sleeping in cars and bathtubs to escape my snoring. I was hoping I'd magically overcome the affliction, but one look at Jason in the morning said otherwise. "Did I snore?" I asked. "No," he replied, and for a moment I felt relieved. "It sounded more like you spent the night fornicating with a flatulence machine." Yikes. It is decided separate hotel rooms will be the way to go for the remainder of the trip. It's a small price to pay for not having my best friend hate me.

Saturday, 11 a.m.: We have found the Alleghany National Forest. Or, as I like to call it, East Dubuque. Don't get me wrong, they're pretty and all. But anyone who's been north of the Quad Cities knows what a tree-covered hill looks like.

Saturday, 3 p.m.: Bradford, Pennsylvania brings us our first random find: the home and museum of Zippo lighters. Celebrating a fire ignition device in the middle of one of our nation's grandest forests doesn't seem like the sort of thing Smokey the Bear would approve of, but we roll with it.

Saturday, 5 p.m.: When we heard Ithaca had a beautiful waterfall worth checking out, we didn't expect to find it smack in the middle of the Cornell University campus, and I certainly didn't think I'd have to cross a stomach-turning suspension bridge in order to see it. If I had to walk across this thing on the daily just to get to class, I'm pretty sure I'd end up with a minor in Contemporary Vomiting.

Sunday, 10 a.m.: "Hey, here's a good idea. Let's gorge ourselves on the complimentary hotel breakfast to the point that we can't move and then go explore the upper Adirondacks," said no one ever. Also, someone failed to inform Lake Placid that it's spring. It is FREEZING up here, and all I brought was the lightest of light jackets. But it's too beautiful to be anywhere else.

Sunday, 2 p.m.: For only $40, you can whiz down the bobsled track from the 1980 Winter Olympics. For $0, you can say "No thank you."

Sunday, 4 p.m.: We have driven to the almost-summit of Whiteface Mountain, where you can look out upon the entire Lake Placid region, which we did for approximately 38 seconds before losing feeling in our extremities. I instead opt for flirting with the cute yet jaded hipster girl working the summit gift shop. She seems WAY over it. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Canada. On a 36-degree sleeting day, you can barely see in front of you. Still, it's pretty spectacular.

Sunday, 6 p.m.: Now we're talking. I watch "Destination Truth" and "MonsterQuest," so I am familiar with Lake Champlain and the sea monster they call Champy purported to lurk in its briny depths. We decide to take a ferry across the lake and see for ourselves. As I feared, Champy is clearly intimidated by my monster-hunting prowess and decides to stay hidden. Bummer. Worse yet, we're now in Vermont.

Where do we go from here? And I believe last week I promised something about animatronic donkeys? More on that... next week.

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