Category Archives: road trip

Slow Your Roll

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Slow Your Roll

Some observations from a recent road trip returning from the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop in Dayton, Ohio to Bucks County, Pennsylvania…

We left at the crack of 8am, 7:45 to be precise. We both carried an enormous amount of luggage to the car. We are “one trip” gals. You know the type, 12 bags of groceries in the family vehicle and determined to lug it all in with one trip. The husband and kids scatter like roaches when the lights come on whenever it’s time to unload the car.

We’ve been training for this for years. Last week I got eight bags in the house in one swoop. I’m not talking about those plastic bags that you wear up your forearm like the worst bracelets ever invented. These were fully loaded paper in plastic bags filled to the tippy top. The task would have been simpler if only I had remembered my reusable bags. Those things rarely get a glimpse of the world beyond the juice stained, tissue infested floorboard of my car. Naturally, the groceries were bagged in the same order that they will be unpacked because I’m domestic and sh*t. Anyhow, the combined 432 pounds of books we acquired did not alter our “one trip” course. I suspect we resembled Sherpas at the base of Mt Everest but no one seemed to notice.

We decided to just get up and go, hit the road early. No shower, no coffee, no breakfast, surely we will find something on the way. That was stupid. Our first round of disappointment was at an Ohio rest stop. We thought, “surely there will be coffee here”, nope. It was an impressive building from the outside looked like it had been built within this decade. Inside was a cavernous land of empty bathrooms, disappointment and broken coffee dreams. There were bathrooms and vending machines, that’s it. We hadn’t yet reached the – let’s see if there is vending machine coffee – phase of desperation so, we got back in the car, sans steamy nectar of the Gods.

I don’t know how many miles passed before we saw an exit sign that hinted at coffee. It felt like it took two days and we were still in Ohio. We decided to exit the highway and fetch a cup to go. I was drawn to the shiny building. It looked like a 50’s diner, a chrome and neon oasis, surely they will have coffee. They did indeed have coffee.

We waited anxiously at the cash register where we made and paid for our purchase. The place was a blur of breakfast activity, it was clear that we hit the rush hour. It’s fine we’ll just wait, how long could it be? After an eon our coffees arrived and then we were shooed to a side of the counter to deal with our coffee fixins. I can get by with no sugar, I can not adapt to no cream. Our request for cream was met with a handful of those little half and half cups. You know the ones, they have approximately three drops of some mysterious liquid that the lab has passed off as half and half (half and half of what exactly, I’m not sure).

So there we were at the counter, desperately opening the three drops full containers in a frenzy while being bumped into by waitresses hauling enormous breakfast trays. Those creamers require the dexterity of a skilled surgeon to open. It was not graceful or efficient but we persevered. It was clear that the five containers they gave us would not suffice, we needed more half and half. I spied a table with a little bowl overflowing with them. I was tempted to make a request but the occupants were deep in conversation and I didn’t want to disturb them. Eventually we flagged a waitress down and noticing our empties, she gave us a bucket full of creamers. We finally got out of there and it’s barely worth mentioning but…the coffee was not worth the wait.

We were back in the car with mediocre coffee in hand. It was another 40 minutes before we saw the green and white sign. We knew the coffee there would also be mediocre but it would be a level up from the swill we already purchased. This time we opted for the drive-thru. Since I don’t like the coffee at this particular chain, I usually get a chai tea latte. I was still somewhat under-caffeinated and glazed over from the hours of early morning driving and ordered a “chatte latte” which sadly, only exists in my sleepy-caffeine-deprived mind. My friend gave me a quizzical look and I corrected the order immediately. Then we went on a wild tangent and by the time I got to the window to pay for the order, I had laughter induced tears in my eyes. The young woman handing over the steaming beverages did not find us amusing. In her defense, if she had heard the fictitious story about the lumberjack and the negligee wearing giraffe, she may have at least smirked.

Back on the road and did I mention that I got a speeding ticket on our outbound journey? True story and dashboard Jesus was instrumental in negotiating a lesser fine (Thank You Jesus). Anyhow, that tempered my lead footed ways. My friend’s consistent “slow your roll” commentary also kept me in check. We kept driving, sharing bits and pieces of our lives with each other, some stories were a refresher on previous conversations. Other bits were long ago fragments of chapters in each of our stories that we simply hadn’t gotten to in past chats. Each story was told with frankness, without fear of judgement which truly defines this friendship. It is quite magical when that happens.

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I’m pretty sure this is the universal sign for “slow your roll”

In our last stop on our way home we filled up the gas tank and then opted to get a snack. We were six hours into the journey at this point and I stumbled upon the best snack food ever created. I sh*t you not. Werther’s Original Caramel Popcorn (Sea Salt & Pretzel) is a snack GAWD. I have been searching for this stuff ever since we returned. Local stores can’t keep it on the shelves. I may break down and buy it online because I can only find the plain caramel variety and that just isn’t getting the job done. If you want to follow me down this rabbit hole, check out the review I stumbled upon:

http://junkbanter.com/2016/09/20/review-werthers-original-caramel-popcorn-sea-salt-pretzel/

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99 varieties of caramel popcorn and Werther’s Original with Sea Salt & Pretzel ain’t one.

When we were an hour out from our destination I texted my husband, it went like this:

Me: I’ll be home around 5pm

Hubs: OK we have food.

My friend and I were both stumped by his text so we did what women do, we put it under the mental microscope for analysis. Did he think I would cook dinner? Is he saying don’t stop at the grocery store? He can’t possibly think I’ll cook dinner or food shop after a 10 hour drive…

The mystery was solved when I came home and saw that we did indeed have food. Turns out my father in law was in the mood to cook so there was a lasagna and stuffed eggplant for dinner. That was a nice surprise.

My advice for a successful road trip is simple:

  1. Pee before you leave
  2. Bring snacks
  3. Take Jesus with you
  4. A great friend makes the time and miles fly
  5. Slow your roll

 

 

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ROSTE…Dover & Canterbury (Part III)

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ROSTE…Dover & Canterbury (Part III)

On our third day we were determined to get up early and see some more sites. We left Ben in charge and he did not disappoint. We stumbled onto a lovely beach at St. Margaret’s Bay which was surrounded by the white cliffs of Dover.

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We had a small snack at the beach from a stand which was carefully attended to by a agreeable chap named Geeves (totally made up name). Geeves was wearing a tie to flip burgers and make coffee.  This would not happen in the USA. Sure you may get a charmer but a tie, not likely. The food was good, reasonably priced and the whole scene was refreshing.

 

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The beach at St. Margaret’s Bay

After about an hour we were back on the road, this time to Canterbury. It was a little tricky finding a parking place but we persevered and eventually found a spot. Canterbury was charming. It had a gorgeous cathedral and a lively town atmosphere among cobblestone walkways.

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There is a ducking stool perched above the boats in the background of this photo. The ducking stool served as punishment for ‘scolds” (women who dissatisfied their husbands or gossiped. Uh-oh). It was also used to determine if someone was a witch. The suspect would be fastened to the chair and dunked in the river for several minutes. If they died they were deemed a non-witch and a letter clearing their name would be sent (Who doesn’t love getting a hand written note in the mail. It’s always bills, bills, bills oh look, Auntie Mary wasn’t a witch. Damn now I feel bad for missing her funeral). Those with the misfortune to live were considered witches and likely died in another heinous manner such as burning.

We wandered around the town darting into different shops and sites along the way. I’m not a big shopper but I couldn’t resist this –

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Dashboard Jesus. He’s already helped me negotiate a lesser fine for a speeding ticket.

 

We did spend some time in the Cathedral of Canterbury. A curious person could spend six months in there. The new section is circa 1200, the new section.

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The “new” section at Canterbury Cathedral.

Thomas Becket gets a lot of attention in these parts. He was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until 1170 when *spoiler alert* he was brutally murdered in the cathedral. Things turned sour between Archbishop Becket and King Henry II over power. The King wanted more power over the church and Becket was opposed.

Four knights turned up in Canterbury to take Becket as a prisoner. The Archbishop sought solace in the cathedral and the knights went in after him. Soon after four knights emerged with bits of Becket’s brain on their swords, a gruesome killing.

Here is a great recount of the relationship between King Henry II and Thomas Becket. It’s somewhat tricky to determine who the bad guy is but Becket was canonized in 1173 and is considered a martyr. It does seem that Thomas Becket underwent an incredible personal change once he became Archbishop of Canterbury. You can get into the weeds about it here –

https://www.historyextra.com/period/medieval/the-unholy-feud-that-killed-thomas-becket/

The cathedral itself is amazing so if you find yourself in that part of the world, I highly recommend a visit.

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Half of England was getting a face lift while we were there. Stone is gorgeous but the upkeep, oh my. Canterbury Cathedral.

We made our way back to our last night in Rye. Our cuisine for the evening was local fish & chips from Marino’s Fish Bar. American friends, chips here are french fries and our chips are called crisps, either way a potato or two get sacrificed.

Next stop, London.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ROSTE…Rye, England (Part II)

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ROSTE…Rye, England (Part II)

The first three nights of our 6 night stay had us tucked in at a cozy apartment in Rye, England. There were 6 in our party – a family of four and a married couple. Our tour guide, Ben, was born and spent his first decade in Great Britain so he was well versed. He and his wife, Sheila, have probably visited England 10 times in as many years.

We stopped at Windsor Castle on our drive over and got to Rye around 6pm. We had a quick stop at a market and stocked up on some supplies. We got the usual – milk, eggs, bacon, bread, water and Mr. Kipling French Fancies. Sadly, I did not partake in the French Fancies because I foolishly gave up sugar for Lent. I had less than a week to go to make good on that decision and I was determined. This meant no scones or desserts of any kind. Boo, hiss.

Mr Kipling French Fancies, 8 packOur friends made a reservation for dinner at one of the coolest places I’ve ever eaten – The Mermaid Inn in Rye. This place has been around since 1156 (cellars) they hit the reset button in 1420. It’s entirely possible that Shakespeare himself visited in August of 1597. The only glimpse I got of William was this bust they have of him.

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Bust of William Shakespeare displayed at the Mermaid Inn – Rye, England

I took a picture of the outside, it was dark and my son photo-bombed me and I may or may not suck at taking pictures.

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I promise he’s a great kid.

The dinner was amazing and the building was a treasure trove of stories. Here’s a link if you want to learn more – http://www.mermaidinn.com/about-the-hotel/It was a gorgeous night for our 15 minute walk to/from dinner from the VRBO.

The next day we got out the door mid morning and hit the road. We drove toward Hastings and made our way through Eastbourne and up to Beachy Head.

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Lighthouse at Beachy Head

I found this guy on the edge of the cliff. So many questions…did he jump? Was he thrown? Was it a voodoo doll sans pins or a scary looking kids doll? Total mystery, I named him Fred.

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Oh Fred, what have you done?

After a bit we got back in the car and headed to Alfriston, a quaint village about half an hour away. We wandered around Alfriston and decided to have lunch at an ancient pub named The George Inn. (Psst…lots of names include George in this part of the world) I had a great sandwich with brie and bacon (totally healthy). I would caution against the sardines though. My daughter loves the tiny filleted sardines she gets at home, these are not those. The sardines here are much larger and come with the head attached. The plate was passed to my husband who has a stronger stomach and “looked” past the eyes staring back at him.

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The George Inn – Alfriston, England. A 14th century pub with the uneven floors and walls to prove it. Food was tasty (minus the sardines). Car not included with meal.

While we were there we were greeted by another customer, Molly. Molly is an English cocker spaniel and her name is pronounced Mahl-LAY. She looked liked the photo below, minus the bunny. She was tethered to the table next to us and did us the honor of letting us pet her. She was pretty busy working another table and sat patiently as the dinners took turns feeding her. I fought the urge to steal her.

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There were a few shops that we slipped into including this one:

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After lunch we made our way back to the car and I found this along the way…no explanation just this in all it’s glory:

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Hey blue eyes, no, you’re not at all creepy…..(quietly backs away)

After a couple of hours in Alfriston we got back in the car. This time we were headed to Brighton Beach. Bear in mind it was off season on a Sunday and we arrived 5pm, not a lot open. Still a fun place to poke around.

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Someone in our party did this “Big Air” bouncing thing…I’m sworn to secrecy on the identity.

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View from the remaining pier at Brighton Beach

The shops were interesting:

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Damn it, I wanted to bet my ass but(t) they were closed.

 

Of course this WAS open, I stayed strong though.

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The Brighton Beach and Piers were closed several years during World Was II after the Brighton Blitz. The West Pier has been closed since 1975 and it was left abandoned. It remained a ghostly presence until much of it collapsed into the sea in January of 2003. This is what remains today:

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After a couple of hours we were set to cap of a long day of touring at our guide’s favorite pub. Here’s a link with some great photos and menus http://www.yewtree-inn.co.uk/gallery

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This place exuded casual hospitality like no other we visited. It felt like visiting a friend’s house. The food was perfection.

And thus, we concluded our second day in England.

 

 

 

Sweet Jesus Take The Wheel

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Sweet Jesus Take The Wheel

I left the house at 6am in a dark, thick cloud of fog. The kind of fog that makes you think of Stephen King movies. Too bad, so sad, I’ve got 555 miles to go before I arrive at my destination.

My first stop was the gas station to fill up my beast on wheels. It was so empty I’m sure I heard it burp when I closed the gas cap. Then off to fetch my partner in crime, (ooooh…foreshadowing) Leah Vidal.

We hit the road at 6:30am sharp and were doing fine for the first twenty minutes until I got turned around on a road I frequently travel. We were busy yapping, I got distracted. Back on track our next slow down was the PA Turnpike. We were caught up in some traffic for the first hour or so and then things opened up.

It’s super easy to lose track of how fast you’re going. The road was clear and we finally had a patch of dry weather and open highway, my foot got heavy. Several hours into our journey we passed a cop on the side of the road. It wasn’t long before the dreaded lights were flashing in my rear view mirror.

This wasn’t my first rodeo, I’ve been pulled over before. I’m a little past my best “flirt-your-way-out” years so I wasn’t optimistic. I decided to stick with super polite bordering on ass-kissing as my tone.

The Officer was calm and measured in his approach. I had the necessities waiting for him – license, registration, and proof of insurance. My passenger and I both smiled at him with enthusiasm when we began our conversation.

Officer: “License,regist….oh thank you.” “Where are you ladies going?”

Me: “Dayton, Ohio sir.”

Officer: “You were doing 87” (that was a shock I had us pegged around 82). Then I instantly flashback to the scene in Planes, Trains at Automobiles when Del Griffith tries to talk his way out of getting the car impounded)”OK are you two sisters?”

Me: “Nope, just good friends going to a conference.” I then do my best game show model arm gesture and point to the dashboard and say “We brought Jesus with us.” (Clearly an act of desperation). I did catch a smirk from the Officer which gave me some hope.

 

It kind of looks like Jesus is flipping me off but he is holding several fingers up, I checked.

The Officer came back a few minutes later after shaving several miles off the ticket, thus saving me some points ($) on my license. We were grateful and thanked him for the discount. I may have touched his arm in a quasi creepy manner and said thanks with more enthusiasm then the situation warranted. In hindsight, I wondered if we should have said we were sisters..would that have resulted in a warning we’ll never know. When we got back on the road, I set the cruise control, Jesus take the wheel.

 

Erma Bound…I’m Bringing Oreos

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Erma Bound…I’m Bringing Oreos

One more sleep until my friend Little Miss Wordy (insert shameless plug: https://littlemisswordy.com/ ) and I make the trek to Dayton, Ohio. It’s an estimated 9 hour drive which sounds awful but Leah and I haven’t seen each other much the past two weeks so we will chat the time away. I’m the newbie on this road trip and I’m pretty excited about it.

This is only my second time traveling for a writing workshop. My first was Writer’s Digest last summer in NYC. That was great but I already know this one will be better. It’s smaller which is a plus and the genre is more specialized. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know much about Erma when I signed up for this event. I’ve been catching up, reading her long ago columns and getting glimpses into her life. I think we would’ve gotten along just fine.

Here’s what I’m packing:

  1. Hope. Hope that I have indeed found my tribe. That I will be surrounded by people that “get” me. A home where my quirky sense of humor is appreciated or at least accepted.
  2. Willingness. Willingness to be open to new ideas and listen attentively to people and concepts that I may not encounter on a daily basis.
  3. Friendship. The spirit of friendship and good will. I hope to bring this with me when I return home.
  4. Kindness. To everyone I encounter on this journey.
  5. The other essentials – clothes, toothpaste, toothbrush, lap top, chargers, 4 pairs of shoes, and a variety of black sweat pants that all look the same to the untrained eye.
  6. Oreos. To sweeten some introductions and to promote my book which has some mention of Oreos sprinkled throughout. Anyone have connections at Nabisco?
  7. My book draft!

 

Here’s what I’m leaving behind:

  1. Ethel. Ethel is the self-doubting prairie dog that lives in my head. She’s awful and sneaky, she pops up from time to time.
  2. Expectation. Keeping this to a minimum.
  3. Impatience. I have gobs of this at home hoping I don’t need it on this trip.

 

To all the friends I haven’t met yet, I look forward to meeting you in person. I’ll be the one with the Oreos probably wearing a hat and perhaps a cape.