The City That Never Sleeps & The Boardwalk EmpireApril 18, 2012
After 9 and a half thousand miles, it was safe to assume we were getting pretty good at this RV driving lark, yep, we were feeling pretty confident, having dealt with various stressful driving situations and having been shouted at on various different occasions by people with authority. After we left our Campsite in Vermont, we drove south towards Boston, we stayed at a campsite for a couple of days there, and took a train into the city (see my last post). After leaving the Boston campsite, we continued south west towards New York, and parked up for a few days at another RV park about 100 miles outside of New York City. We had planned to drop the RV off somewhere near NYC, but we had arranged to meet friends; Ben & Amy and go for one last whirlwind adventure in the RV before doing so – a 400 mile round trip from New York City to Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The day we arranged to meet Ben and Amy, we set of early, now relying on the old fashioned “We’ll meet at this place at this time” method due to the lack of available working phones between our two parties, we selected a meeting place on Google Maps, and agreed to meet at 12.12pm. Me and Tamara left in plenty of time, giving ourselves almost twice as much time as we needed to get to our designated meeting place, and the drive went smoothly, sat nav lady informed us we were going to arrive almost an hour before we were due. Perfect.
The New York State Line
As with all of our RV stories, the success didn’t last. As we were hurtling down a freeway, Tam caught a glimpse of a sign that she thought might have been a low bridge, but couldn’t remember the number it said. The RV is 13 feet. As we continued cautiously, we saw the bridge looming ahead, it was tiny, no way we were getting under it. I started to have flashbacks of San Francisco, and reversing the wrong way down a 7-lane freeway to the sound of sirens and the horns of a hundred angry drivers. Luckily there was a slip road to the right, we took it and went up, straight over the road and then back down the slip road and back onto the motorway. Crisis averted.
Ten minutes later, we saw another sign… same again, no way were going to make it, so up we went on the slip road once more. As we neared the top of the slip road, we saw a sign across which said “No Trucks”, though technically we were not in a truck, the reason for the sign was now obvious, and we figured our luck wouldn’t last, so with only 17 miles to our meeting place left on the sat nav, we reluctantly turned right and into some suburbs, figuring we would just head in the general direction without joining the freeway. Sat Nav lady tried to understand what was going on, and eventually gave up – she stopped speaking to us once again, I tried to explain to her that she needed to navigate us to roads without low clearance but she couldn’t understand. We turned her off and carried on down the random road for 15 minutes or so, watching the clock tick away, watching our early arrival time slowly drop back to just “on time”. After a while, we turned the Sat Nav lady back on, to see if she could give us any idea of where we were or where we had to go… sure enough, she told us to turn right around and head back to the freeway. We continued ignoring her, driving random roads until we saw another “No Trucks” sign, this wasn’t the same road, this was a new sign. We avoided it as we had the others and took a new road, again we saw another sign. “No Trucks”. What the hell was going on? We had driven almost 10,000 miles across America, and not once had we seen a low bridge (except for that one time at San Francisco airport). Today was not our day. Sat Nav lady informed us we were no longer going to be on time, but were in fact going to be about 20 minutes late.
We eventually found our way to a road which got us moving, and we found ourselves about 3 miles from our meeting place, we were only 30 minutes late at this point and were a little less stressed, until right at that second, we saw another low bridge looming, and no exit to take, we swung left into a small alley way which lead into a building car park. I almost wanted to scream; in fact I think I may have done. The bridge said it had a clearance of 11.9 feet. We were 13 feet. There was a Mexican man in the car park, and we asked him if he knew of another way around the bridge.. he replied, just go under it you’ll be fine, shoot for the middle. This was probably not great advice, given he really didn’t have much to loose if he was wrong, but we took it, as we couldn’t face turning around again to try and find a new way around. We shot for the middle; I’m not sure what sort of face Tam was pulling at this point because my eyes were closed. I opened them about half way through, and looked up at the roof of the bridge, which looked far to close for comfort. A few seconds later and we were out on the other side, to freedom and only a couple of miles left on the Sat Nav, who at last was no longer trying to take us the 17 miles back to the spot where it all started to fall apart.
A few minutes later, we pulled around a corner and there were Ben & Amy patiently waiting and looking slightly relieved.
Shortly after picking Ben & Amy up, we realised that the RV at this point needed an oil change, we drove to the nearest garage and were greeted with yet another low clearance sign. The guys working the forecourt gave us directions to another garage six miles away that had enough headroom to get us in. An hour or so later, fresh oil in the engine, we were on our way to Atlantic City, New Jersey. The journey down was pretty smooth sailing once again, albeit with an obscene amount of toll roads, we must have crossed about 15 tolls on our way down, costing us upwards of about $40.00. Tolls ranging from $0.75 to $12.00. No matter though, we were all excited an in high spirits about the night ahead. As we crossed the New Jersey turnpike we blasted the Sopranos theme tune, and all rhythmically bobbed our heads to the beat. I’m not sure how many times we played that song on the way down but it was a lot. At some point the music switched from the Sopranos theme tune to the Inception soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, which resulted in a hilarious moment where a toll man was counting out 75 1 cent coins to the gradually building epic sounds of a dream within a dream. He was appropriately unimpressed.
The Atlantic City Sign
When we finally did make it to Atlantic city, we checked into our hotel and parked up the RV, the clerk mentioned that our room was tiny and we could have an upgrade to a larger room, the downside was that the room had no view. We opted to stick with our tiny room with a view. When we did get upstairs, we found the room was huge, and with a few peculiar features, such as a wall sized window facing into the bathroom and adjacent to the shower. Also the television was on a 360 degrees rotating disk in the centre of the room. The view over the ocean however, was spectacular.
That night we headed out, hoping for a Vegas style buffet with unlimited Champagne, no deals, apparently that’s something unique to Vegas, they have the buffets, but not the free drink. We eventually ended up having a beer and eating some greasy burgers from Johnny Rockets, while a lady squirted ketchup smiley faces into a side dish for us. Classy. None of us took advantage of the unlimited free French fries served on tiny plates.
We eventually made it to a Casino, and started hitting the 1 cent slot machines, very slowly and cautiously watching the cents disappear, and scoping the room for a waitress that might offer us free drinks. After it became apparent one wasn’t coming, we went on a scouting mission to bring one back to us. We did find one eventually, and she did give us free drinks, score. 4 margaritas. We gave her a 5 buck tip and then carried on gambling our cents. The drinks didn’t last and we needed more, and we wanted to ensure that our betting/drink ratio was as good as it could be, we had each put 5 bucks into the machines, so we figured the more drinks we could get out of her, the better the ratio would become. Bearing in mind we were also throwing in a 5 buck tip each time, which meant we had to be even more cautious with our betting if our ratio was to remain golden.
The night went on like this.. on and on and on and on. At some point we figured out we could get Champagne for free. I can’t even imagine how many cups of cheap Champagne I drank that night. As the night wore on, it became less about the ratio and more about trying every drink on the menu. We kept gambling, and we kept getting more and more drunk. We even had a couple of wins between us, 3 dollars here, 4 dollars, I even dropped 13 dollars out of one machine. I’m sure I put in more than that, but the wins helped the precious precious ratio.
I think secretly we had all been looking at our watches now and again but were all having fun so no one mentioned that it had got to about 4am. But at some point, we did all become mutually aware of the time around then. Then somehow, between chatting to a slot maintenance guy, ordering way to many drinks to finish, or Ben telling the barmaid not to be stupid when she refused his tip, it was 6.30am before we rolled back to our hotel. I vaguely remember us finding a games room on the top floor, and tripping Ben over as he ran through the door, then him pulling me off a motorbike racing game and dragging me across the floor, I also vaguely remember Skyping my cousin Stephen, and chucking them laptop in the bathroom whilst Amy was having a shower, and cracking Ben square in the nuts… it was not my finest hour. Sorry to both Amy and Ben for those particular incidents.
Amy winning big on the slot machines in Atlantic City
Showing Tam how much money I won (or was about to lose)
A happy gambling couple.
Free drinks and Tam’s big win
RING RING, RING RING. RING RING, RING RING.
Me: “Sniff, cough, erm, hello?”
Hotel Clerk: “Hello sir, just needed to remind you that checkout is at 11.30am”
Me: “Cough, what time is it?”
Hotel Clerk: “It’s 11.30 Sir”
Ben: “Ok, we’re just getting ready”
Hotel Clerk: “I can give you till 12.30 if you like sir”
Ben: “That would be great, thanks”
Hotel Clerk: “There will be a charge of $150.00 added to your bill”
Ben: “……. we’ll be right down”
Hotel Clerk: “See you soon sir, have a nice day”
We got down in good time, and the hotel didn’t charge us, but clearly they know how to get 4 hungover people out of their room in a hurry. We all had breakfast and a walk around before getting back onto the road. I was hungover, so hungover, we all were. And somehow those tolls just weren’t as easy to stomach on the way home. Plus Ben and Amy really needed to be dropped of in New York on the way back, me and Tamara had planned to stay somewhere near the Cruise America office, the place which the RV was to be handed back the following day. We did manage to get Ben and Amy to a train station, but it wasn’t ideal. That night me and Tamara found no RV parks, we spent the night in a Home Depot car park, listening to the soothing sounds of trucks going by, and trying to clean the inside of the RV without any water. We hadn’t even had a shower, as we had to leave the hotel in such a hurry, and we had no water in the RV. It was a rough night to say the least. Next morning we dropped off the RV, said goodbye and hopped on a train to New York City, we met Ben & Amy and headed back to an apartment they had rented and had a shower. Finally.
We spent a few days with Ben & Amy before moving to a hostel, we had a great time sight seeing, we even got to run around Times Square drunk at one point, and we caught the most pointless, shit parade ever. Seriously, if you’re ever planning to see the St Patricks day parade in New York. Don’t bother.
Ben enjoying the New York Subway
Times Square Subway Station
Ben showing a lego Indiana Jones who’s boss!
Real Life Angry Birds
Prizes for guessing what happened next?
Enjoying the St Patrtick’s Day Parade
Drunk in Times Square
Tam in Times Square
Times Square at Night
Ben in Times Square
A beautiful shot of me and tam with NYC in the background taken from Brooklyn
Traffic crossing the Brooklyn Bridge
The four of us on the Brooklyn Bridge
Ben and Amy on the Brooklyn Bridge
Ben, Amy and Tam on the Brooklyn Bridge
Amy and Tam’s minds being blown
Still trying to grasp the awesomeness
The five of us
Ben cheering for liberty!
A picture of majesty
How to ruin someone’s beer
Thinking about how to ruin someones beer
Me and Tam
Ben and Amy
Tam enjoying some Ethiopian Food
Good times in the Sopranos pub
Converse American Flag
Ben, Amy and Tam in Central Park
9/11 Memorial, Ground Zero, New York
9/11 Memorial, Ground Zero, New York
We said goodbye to Ben & Amy, and enjoyed a couple more days in New York just the two of us. We went to the 9/11 memorial and just took in the sights of the city a little more, before having one last coffee and a bagel in Central Park, and getting in a taxi back to JFK to fly back to England. Wrapping up our American Adventure and the first half of our round the world tour.
We were coming home.