Sunday, 14 August 2011

The Open Road

We have a car. After a visit to the DMV office on 42nd Street it became obvious that our only choice was to rent and with my deluded fantasies of my ultimate car already dwindling, we went round to the hertz garage to pick up our um …… Prius. Well at least I can feel good that I’m giving something back to the environment from which I have so readily taken (Or perhaps just taking slightly less than I would have done), it gets 45 miles to the gallon.

After escaping from New York we took the New Jersey Turnpike and re-enacted the intro to the Sopranos and headed straight for Philly. With it already being quite late and being in the middle of a thunderstorm we only had time to catch a glimpse of the Liberty Bell and see the site of George Washington’s House where a road tunnel exhaust and ventilation tower now sits. Driving on South we saw the first of what will be many jeans creaming industrial skylines with the tower blocks of downtown disappearing behind.

Late that evening we got to the beautiful Chesapeake Bay that is imperilled by the constant threat of pollution and large amounts of unsustainable commercial fishing. Unfortunately we didn’t know this until after we ate an entire scuttle of blue crabs at Jimmy Cantlers, which was delicious. We then headed on to a Motel 6 on the outskirts of Washington that was situated next to an airforce base.

Jia, eating crabs whilst oblivious to Chesapeake bay's plight.

Waking up to the sound of F16s and Chinooks, we got up and drove into Washington, quickly visiting as many monuments as we could and going to the Air and Space museum, the highlight of which, for me, was seeing the F1 rocket engine. Moving swiftly on, we drove through Pennsylvania to stay in a motel lodge whose website’s background music is Johann strauss’ Blue Danube punctuated by gunshot sounds. We stayed here in order to make the mandatory visit to Falling Water, which managed to meet the astronomically high expectations it’s set itself.

Much of the USA’s wealth and success originated in what is now called the rust belt. Driving up the I79 toward Pittsburgh, the legacy of the steel industry was clearly evident. Stopping along the way to try and visit the Carrie Furnaces, our sat nav took us down a dead end. Apparently in Pittsburgh 4 people bumbling round a red prius trying to work out where they are warrants having a local man call the cops on you. After 3 squad cars converged on our position and determined we were not drug dealers they were more than happy to help us try and get to see the abandoned steel mill, going as far as giving us the number of a lady who gives tours. She didn’t pick up.

After driving through Downtown Pittsburgh at night whilst listening to Ayo Technology and seeing the horrific building where the evil guy from Inspector Gadget lives, we moved along the I76 to Cleveland Ohio.  Cleveland smells kind of funny so we stayed in a Super 8 out of town.

Next port of call was the Cedar Point Roller Coaster Park and with about 75 rides it’s one of the largest amusement parks in the world. Located on a peninsula sticking out into lake Erie, driving up to it feels more like you’re going to a rocket launch facility than a theme park. Visible for many miles is the “Top thrill Dragster ride” (link) which accelerates you to 120mph in 3.8 seconds before pushing you 420ft (about as high as the gherkin) in the air and then all the way back down to the start in 17 seconds total. We rode it twice along with about 13 other Roller Coasters including the wooden mean streak that makes Coney Island’s cyclone look like the teacup ride. We then headed for what is one of my highlights for the trip, Detroit.

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