Ralph Melton (ralphmelton) wrote,
Ralph Melton

Road Trip, July 17-21, 2008

I really intend to post this earlier, but I kept doing work at work. Funny how that happens.

We've enjoyed our road trips of the past few summers. This year, though we were planning a trip to Dallas, we didn't feel like taking the time to do a road trip there. So instead, we took a quick 4-day road trip in mid-July.

We didn't have a clear destination for this trip. In fact, we only started planning it in earnest a week or so before. We'd been thinking about trying to find a B&B somewhere in New England. But at some point, Lori mentioned a fantasy to see a Broadway show, and that shifted our thoughts towards New York. But, of course, New York is expensive... so we tried to plan a trip with only one night in New York, and two nights elsewhere. I suggested the Poconos, because I'd heard of them as a tourist destination. Neither of us knew much about the Poconos, but after some web-surfing, Lori developed an affection for Jim Thorpe, PA. So, we planned to spend a day in Jim Thorpe, then go to New York for two days and one night.


Thursday, July 17

Set off for Jim Thorpe.

Ate dinner at the Dutch Kitchen in Frackville, PA, where we've eaten good meals a few times before. Lori wasn't wild about her meatloaf, but I was delighted with my chicken pot pie. (This is an Amish chicken pot pie; don't think of a pie; think of a chicken-noodle soup that's thick enough to stand a spoon in.) Since we were running late, we got pie and a sweet roll for later.

Arrived at the Victori-Ann, our B&B in Jim Thorpe. It was a nice place, and our room was both quaint and spacious, which is relatively rare. But the general tone of the owner wasn't very welcoming. This may have been caused by our late arrival, but we both felt put off by the recital of rules and restrictions.


Friday, July 18

Started the morning with some foofooraw about finding a legal place to park--I got directed to a parking lot several blocks away.

Breakfast in the BRB. Grapefruit, other fruit, scones, toast, some frittata-ish eggs, Little Smokies. The scones were notably nice, but the eggs were notably not-so-good.

Tried to go off for a hike through some waterfalls. Casually dismissed the warnings about it being a difficult hike, because I suspected that my daily walk is somewhat difficult on this scale. However, the trail was not adequately marked, and the parts we thought were the trail were very steep. We gave up and turned back.

Stopped by the Jim Thorpe Memorial on the way back to town. He really did some amazing athletic feats.

Browsed the quaint little shops in Jim Thorpe for a bit. Ate lunch at a restaurant called Through the Looking Glass, self-described as "the most romantic restaurant in Jim Thorpe". It was a good place for a lunch, would not have had the atmosphere we wanted for dinner. We shared a tasty chicken-and-artichoke pizza on a thick focaccia crust.

Took a nap at the B&B while Lori browsed more quaint little shops.

Ate dinner at Moya. I had the pan-roasted lemon chicken with garlic, white wine, and olives. We can't recall what Lori had. Both were nice, but not splendid--mine seemed to be missing some central flavor.


Friday, July 18

Another non-splendid B&B breakfast. It may be that we got off on the wrong foot with the proprietor, but I'm in no hurry to go back.

Drove in to New York. This curt summary overlooks a lot of pleasant driving through New Jersey and a lot of tense driving in New York. Found the hotel and left the car and the luggage with them.

Misjudged the map to think that it was a short walk to the TKTS office to try to get half-price tickets to a show. I would describe it instead as a medium distance. We did enjoy the scenic detour through Grand Central Station, though.

We had been trying hard to get to the TKTS office as early as possible, because we'd been told that tickets went on sale at noon. We arrived at 1:50, and learned that the tickets on sale then were for 2pm matinees, and evening shows went on sale at 3. Had a brief moment of indecision about whether to try to go for a matinee right then--but we decided that we really needed to eat lunch beforehand.

Lori noticed the Edison Hotel across the street from the TKTS office, and connected it to the Cafe Edison mentioned in Roadfood, so we went there. I had a brisket sandwich and kasha varnishkes; Lori had a club sandwich. The sandwiches were decent but not special; the kasha varnishkes seemed like a pretty good instance of a fundamentally bland dish.

Stood in the long TKTS line. Got evening tickets for Gypsy. Lori was very excited!

Underestimated another walk to the Cupcake Cafe, another Roadfood-listed place. The cupcakes were extremely pretty, and fairly tasty.

Walked back to the hotel, checked into the room and found it small. Got ready for dinner and the show.
Got a cab to the restaurant, was startled by the $20 price.

Ate dinner at La Boite En Bois, a French restaurant remembered fondly by a friend. I had the Roast Salmon with a Honey Mustard Crust and Dill Sauce, Lori had the pan-roasted chicken with herbs. I was not delighted with my salmon; it had much more honey than mustard, so was a bit sweet. Lori liked her roast chicken better.
My other dominant impression of the restaurant was that it was small and crowded--the host had to pull the table out to let me in, so I spent the whole meal avoiding the sliding-block puzzle of getting out of my seat and holding my elbows to my sides to avoid crowding my neighbors.

Off to Gypsy, starring Patti LuPone. Now, I am pretty insensitive to much of the finer points of drama and performance. My main standard for dramatic quality is diction, since I often have trouble understanding all the words. So with that background in place: Gypsy was superb, and I enjoyed it significantly more than I've enjoyed the average musical in Pittsburgh. And the diction was excellent.

Had a second dessert at Junior's, near the theater. (Another Roadfood-cited place, though we weren't thinking about that at the time.) We had their "strawberry shortcake", which was a cheesecake in a shortcake crust topped with strawberries. Pretty tasty.

Walked back to the hotel. We didn't mean to. But we thought that if we got out to 42nd Street, we could catch a bus--only to find out that the NYC buses don't take bills, only coins and an electronic MTA card. We then considered hailing a taxi, but before we got one, we were so close to the hotel that it seemed irrelevant. We were both very tired and achy from all the day's walking.


Sunday, July 20

Lori went to St. Patrick's Cathedral for Mass. I stayed in the hotel and read.

We'd planned to leave NYC around 3 or so, but checkout time was at noon. When we checked out, we discovered a snag in our plans: we couldn't leave the car at the hotel after checkout without paying another $45.

Not a problem, I think. A friend of ours had said that Sunday afternoon was the best time to spend in New York, because everyone left town and parking was easy.

Now, I don't claim that she said that with the intention of playing a cruel joke upon us hapless tourists, but her words had that effect. Trying to drive and park was a miserable experience, which finally resulted in us resorting to a garage blocks away from our intended target.

Ate lunch at the Carnegie Deli. I really enjoyed it as food tourism, with all the pictures on the walls, sharing tables with other people, and seeing the 8-inch tall sandwiches go by. However, I wanted a bit more flavor from my mixed deli omelette. Lori's bacon and egg sandwich was pretty good, though.

Spent a bit of time shopping in an outdoor street fair nearby. Got the car when it started to rain. Rain stopped when I picked Lori up, but I wasn't going to go through the hassle of parking the car again. Drove around Central Park a bit, and then left New York.

I think that most of my troubles with New York were a matter of not knowing how the city worked. Some of the details that would have made getting along so much easier:
- how to catch the bus and the subway
- how to hail a taxi
- how much to expect a taxi ride to cost
- what distances are right for walking, for taxi, for bus, for subway
- how much to tip, whom to tip, and how to offer a tip smoothly
- how the TKTS system worked

These things aren't unknowable, of course--millions of New Yorkers are intimately familiar with these. But I felt like I was fighting the current because I didn't know how not to, and getting more fatigue than fun doing so.

Drove to New Jersey to meet up with friends from our WoW guild. We had a long, pleasant dinner with Samadhi and Adaroswena at Long Valley Pub and Brewery. I made a poor choice in my meal with the smoked pork loin po' boy; the sandwich was too spicy for me to finish, and the fries were too greasy to ease the heat comfortably.

Moseyed on into Pennsylvania. Decided to pull off the road a little early in Tannersville and play some WoW.


Monday, July 21

Breakfasted at "The Diner at Tannersville". Not a very good meal, particularly when I learned later that there was Roadfood up the road. Tried scrapple for the second time, with no more joy than the first time I tried it.

We'd realized that Knoebel's was on our route home, so stopped there for the afternoon. That was really a delightful time. We played some miniature golf (though we stopped early because the people ahead of us were very slow), ate park food, enjoyed ourselves on the rides. I caught the brass ring on the merry-go-round, and was really pleased thereby. (And like dvarin, I was surprised at how swiftly the workers gave me tickets in exchange for the ring. We didn't even have time for a picture.) This was probably my favorite time of the whole trip.

Decided to go to State College for a nostalgic visit on our route home. Set the GPS to guide us there avoiding major highways, and had a really pleasant drive through Pennsylvania farmland.

Ate dinner at Mario and Luigi's in State College. I'd been expecting a pizza parlor, but this was an upscale restaurant. Once again, the food was good but not superb. (Since I had such consistent results this weekend, maybe that was due to me, not the restaurants.)

For dessert, went to the Berkey Creamery at Penn State. My peach Peduto cone was pretty good, but I wasn't blown away the way I was at Jeni's.

Lori drove on home, through some heavy rain. A pleasant trip and a pleasant return.
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