Saturday, October 29, 2005

"Goodbye to Rosie, Queen of Carona..."-On the road with Rob day 18-20.

So, I found myself on Cape Cod with no real sense of purpose... Unsure of myself, unsure of my future, and unsure of my life. The dark grays of the North Atlantic on winter's edge seemed to echo something within me. I cruised along the scenic route along the beaches of the cape, through the dunes and along the blacktop in a kind of personal fog.

Still, the realities of my existence kicked in, and I found a room for the night at a quaint little inn in Orleans. "The Ship's Knees inn" is one of those picturesque New England inns you see on the travel channel. Very weathered, on a hill, and just oozing with charm.

Plus that, it's only five minutes from the beach.

I caught the inn during it's off season, which meant that it was really just me and the innkeepers. I was actually surprised that I was able to find such a place during the off-season, as most of their competitors simply close up after the summer. It was owned by this really nice couple, the Butchers, who live on the property with their family. They were great at pointing me toward local eateries and attractions, and for the first night since Katrina hit, I got a really great night's sleep there.

Truth is, I envy their lifestyle. Long before I came to New Orleans, I had always sworn to myself that the way I would someday retire was to have a little New England inn of my very own, and I always envisioned it much like the Ship's Knees. Part home, part hotel, and just generally a fun place to live and work. Slow enough in the off season months to keep you sane, busy enough in the on season to keep you comfortable.

The next day, I went to the beach and saw a seal. At first, I thought it was a plesiosaur... I have never seen seals in their natural environment, after all... And the black head popping up in the north Atlantic took me aback a bit. I realized how stupid I had been and got back into the car, headed across Massachusetts toward upstate New York, feeling renewed, with one thought in my mind: How great it would be to own my own inn.

But where? How? Was this the answer I had been looking for?

Friday, October 28, 2005

"Takin my time but I don't know where"- On the road with Rob- days 9-17. "Really! Where am I going?"

Well, folks... Although I know many of you were waiting with baited breath for more stories from the road, the realities of finding internet access around the country proved far more challenging than I initially hoped they would be. So, here I sit in Brandon again, intent upon returning home tomorrow. So, what happened to my lost week or two? "let me splain... No, is too much... Let me sum up."

I had a great time.

Okay, maybe brevity isn't the best way to go here :)

I spent about a week in NYC catching up with my Dad and Mom, and assorted other friends. With Dad, this involved massive amounts of sitting around on the couch and watching TV. With Mom, a dinner or two. It was the first trip to NY I've taken since I moved to New Orleans that I didn't once go into Manhattan, and spent all my time on good old Staten Island.

Having said that, S.I. is no longer the place I grew up in. The differences are subtle but alarming... A new house or two here, an increase in traffic there, a shopping center in some woods I was too chicken to go into as a kid. Ahhh... The price of progress, I guess.

I had left Brandon feeling... Well, for lack of a better term, "Rudderless". I realized as I headed up I-95 bound for New England, that even before Katrina, my life lacked any serious direction. This feeling really galvanized itself to me on the trip up there. I talked about this a little with Dad before I left NY, and his answer was remarkably un-Dad like: "All of us lack direction, Robbie..." He said to me, "No one ever really knows where life will take them... But sometimes, that's just how life works. Sure, you can plan, and dream, and prepare yourself to take advantage of things, but bottom line is you don't know where you'll end up." He backed up this statement with a few choice examples from his life I won't go into here.

Normally, Pop would have been a wise ass and handed me a compass and a map. The apple falls not far from the tree I guess.

Anyway, I left NYC headed toward Cape Cod in something of a fog, both literally and spiritually. I began to think about all the advice people have given me over the years and what Dad had said as I made my way up the Connecticuit coast, and to Mystic, CN. Mystic is a beautiful old New England town, rich with history, culture, and charm. I looked around for a bit, and even did a little job hunting. Unfortunately, everywhere I went I received the same reply: "Sorry, we're not hiring now, come back when our season starts up again." I spent the night at a really nice hotel with a nearby Indian casino. The casinos don't have an off season, but even lacking direction I knew that I don't want to work in a casino.

So where did this leave me? Bored, alone, and with a full tank of gas in the car. Cape Cod was not far... But part of me wondered exactly what the point would be in continuing my journey. Had I already found the answers I had been seeking? Were they just not what I hoped? Tune in tomorrow for the conclusion of the trip to find out, readers.

By the numbers:

Lowest price for gas: $2.21 per gallon

Stupid place name: Pickle's Knob

Realization: The native Americans have quite the racket going with them casinos.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

"I'm on my waaay"-On the road with Rob days 3-8 "A New York state of Mind"

Well, I'm sure many of you have been wondering what happened to me after I left the blue ridge mountains.. I'm sure many of you have speculated that the earth itself opened up and swallowed me whole... well, that's in a way true.. but I'll get to that in a moment.

The trip has been very wet thus far. I mean almost non-stop rain and drizzle since I left the parkway on saturday. It's to the point up here in the Tri-state area (NY, NJ, CN) that there is a lot of flooding. Just what I needed... more freakin flooding. I swear, I am so living on a houseboat.

Well, on saturday morning, I had actually considered going white water rafting... but the weather sucked, so I instead, went to a cave.

Don't laugh... only been in a cave once before. thought it would be neat. Again, I figure the whole "extremes" thing applied here... I went from 6000 ft or so one day to 560 ft below ground the next. How cool is that? I was surprised to find that the cave was still higher (above sea level) than new orleans. go figure.

From there, I drove up through virginia, but I passed on DC and went streight on to NYC. I don't know why... I guess I was homesick. Soon, the beautiful blues of the Blue Ridge mountains gave way to the angry greys of the north atlantic in fall. Quite the change.

Seeing Mom and Dad again was great. My parents are some very cool, if quirky, people. I also had the opportunity to visit my Aunt upstate in New Paltz, NY and bond with my cousin Jesse over video games.

Ahhhh...nothing brings the generations together like "Need for Speed 2".

So, My aunt is one of those italian-american ladies you read about... the kind that feeds you at least once every half hour when you walk in the door. I must've put on at least ten pounds, and was only there for a day or so...

I've also had the chance to catch up with a few folks from the old days... seems everyone I knew "back then" is now married with at least two kids. I feel so out of place... like my life has lacked direction or something these past few years.

On that note, I also have decided to extend my trip a few days for some more "reflection time" on my part. My life does lack direction, and with the knowledge that it will be at least mid-november before my job really kicks in again... Maybe I can find some. New York is a very lonely place, and I don't feel it will ever again be my home...

By the numbers-

Miles traveled so far- 1509.6

Price of gas in NYC- 2.89 per gallon

Price of gas when I left Brandon- 2.79 per gallon

Friends caught up with- 3

friends left to go- 5

Moment of clarity- When I beat Cousin Jesse in the second game we played, and he looked at me and said: "Whoa! Robbie's got game!" (I owe it all to the Ronald J. Nunez school of driving...convieniently located in Fun Arcade)

Sunday, October 09, 2005

"I don't know where I'm going.."- On the road with Rob- days 2&3- "Top o the world, Ma!"

Well, as you all know, New Orleans is 6 or so feet below sea level, and I decided while planing this little voyage that I wanted to get as far above sea level as possible. Try 3752 feet! or the altitude of the Bluffs lodge where I spent last night. I drove up the blue ridge parkway, and loved every second of it. beautiful winding road through the mountains, tunnels through solid rock, viaducts over deep chasms, with wonderful overlooks every few miles. It was great!

"there aren't many places like this around anymore" the check in clerk told me as she handed me my key, and apologized for the lack of phones, televisions, or internet service in the rooms. When I pulled out my cell phone, she just laughed at me. Apparently, I would need to climb the rest of the frickin mountain if I expected to get a signal, and even then it was iffy. I ignored the "stupid city folk" look in her eye and spent the night enjoying the mountain air by the outdoor fireplace. The folks I met were friendly and brimming with curiosity about my all-but-destroyed city.

Somewhere, around when a deer scampered across the field behind the hotel, I realized the clerk was right... there aren't many places like that anymore... It was also exactly what I needed. I headed north, the next morning (after trying some of the best black cherry preserves on the planet) and got as far as maryland. there is much more to day 3, but I'm tired and need sleep.

Miled traveled day 2- 150 day 3- 500

Cokes drunk on trip thus far- 8

Best quirky church sign- "Wal-mart isn't the only place for saving"

Revalation of the day- every road goes somewhere.

Stupid town name du jour- "Cooch Gap, NC" (snicker...)

Price of Jar of Black cherry preserves- $10.00

Price I would have still paid- $50.00

Most disturbing natural wonder- Natural Bridge, VA... somone roped it off and they charge you 18 bucks to even glimpse it! I passed in horror.

Oddest fact learned- The blue ridge parkway constructin began September 11, 1935.

New York or burst tommorow!

Friday, October 07, 2005

"Well i'm on my way"-Rob from the road day 1-"Chasing Katrina"

Well, dear readers, I am indeed on my way on a month or so road trip to "find my placein the world" I drove up through alabama into the Great Smokey Mountains of tennesee and the carolinas... So named because in certain types of weather, the fog formations make them appear to actually smoke! I never would have known this had I not seen it with my own eyes. One thing that suprised me though, was how far the devestation left by the hurricane that has uprooted my life extended... I realized at some point that I was actually following almost exactly the path the storm had taken after it passed over louisiana and mississippi... I was still seeing downed trees and signs as far north as tuscolusa, alabama. Powerful storm. Powerful images.

Observations from the Road today:

Distance traveled: ~600 miles- from Brandon MS, to Asheville, NC

Average price of gas: $2.89

Stupid town name du jour: Chunky, MS.

Unusual sight of the day... two people running after a runnaway trailer labeled "$4000 takes it"

Great revalation: I think too much about a particular woman.

Great revalation #2: Paul Simon writes one hell of a road song. the first three tracks of his greatest hits album are the greatest!

Great revalation #3: I have no idea what the "coast" button on the cruise control does... and 70mph (110 kph- thinkin of all you european types) is no time for me to find out. anyone know?

Till tomorrow, y'all... the Blue Ridge Parkway beckons.