Monday, June 02, 2014

Blogger/Camper Road Trip 2014

Grab a cup of something cuz this post is long. Alternatively, skim it to see all the pretty pictures.

Here I am. After my lengthiest absence yet from this platform. I do have a good excuse but cannot talk about it here. So few people know what I've been through although I am dying to tell the story, maybe I will set up a secret blog to spell it all out. Anyway, Rox knows all about it if she cares to share privately.

So we had planned on going to Switzerland for my cousin's wedding last weekend but our investment property in Florida that we embarked on last June has just been a money pit. We have fired our property management company and hired another, so I am feeling optimistic that once we get the deadbeats out and the empty units rented, things will eventually be smooth sailing. We couldn't justify spending so much money to go to Europe in these frugal times but I had already arranged for all the time off work so I came up with an idea for a vacation that would both be fun and cheap - a road trip to see bloggers and campers around the Northeast US. It turned out to be one of the funnest vacations we have ever had and something I can see becoming an annual thing. So ready or not, here we go.

We headed out on Friday May 23rd. The plan was to leave when I got home from work at 1:30 after Serge had dropped off the dog at his cousin's. During that jaunt, Serge encountered traffic and got lost so he was a little late. He also noticed something weird with the brakes. I noticed it right away too when we headed out. The car braked (broke?) fine and stopped but once stopped the pedal slowly continued easing itself to the floor requiring a little pumping to keep the car still. I just put it in park at stop lights after that. Once we were on the highway, there was very little braking and the border crossing was a breeze. The officer at the border was extraordinarily cheerful and when he asked what we were bringing in I told him chips, candy bars and maple syrup. He asked if the chips were ketchup flavored (a popular variety up here) and I told him no they are maple bacon flavored. His eyes lit up and he wanted to know the brand and where to buy them. It was cute and certainly not the surly demeanor we are accustomed to while crossing into the US. At a certain point I had to pee and they have closed all the rest stops or turned them into parking areas and "text stops" so we stopped at one so I could let loose in the bushes. The brakes seemed perfectly fine at that point. It's not the first time something seems to have fixed itself on this car. Our first stop was to see Sean and Jeffrey at their lovely home in Troy, NY.

We were greeted warmly by the boys and the pups. We also watched as Sean had a nurse over explaining the contraption he would have to be hooked up to for the next ten days due to an infection. He seemed just fine, but those pesky blood tests told a different story. We had a couple drinks and then went out to a great Mexican joint for sangria and burrito goodness. We didn't go to bed too late and we warned them about my recent sleepwalking bouts, luckily I didn't sleepwalk the entire trip nor pee in any non-toilet spots. (Seriously, I get this text from Serge the other day. "Why are all my underwear wet in the underwear drawer?" Shudder)

We got to stay in the super hero guest suite. The following day we hung out and played some Wii bowling which oddly enough made my arm hurt just as much as if I were actually bowling with a big ol' bowling ball. Weird. Serge and I want to get one, but at the moment we are buying only what we need and not what we want. Maybe Serge can get one for my birthday. Hint hint honey.

We went out to breakfast and Serge ordered the steak and eggs and will you just look at the size of that thing? It was ridiculous even though he managed to consume the entire thing.

That evening, Sean and Jeffrey had invited friends over for a cookout and everybody brought some food and I decided to make my Grandpa's chili cheese dip. I haven't had it in over a decade mostly because the ingredients aren't readily available here. There are two ingredients - small box of Velveeta and one can of no-bean chili. Microwave and mix, microwave some more and mix some more. Serve with tortilla chips. So white trash but so dang good. Discovered it went great on a hot dog too. Yes, I do have a classy pallet. Anyway, we all had a great time and I turned everyone onto Heads Up, an app that Ellen Degeneres came up with and that I learned about at camp. I use it in my classes all the time and this gang had never heard of it. I think we played for a couple of hours. 15 gay men can get quite raucous. Here, I'll show you:

A great time was had by all. Now we were ready to head over to the Camp Camp reunion and visit with Camper Charles. We took a last selfie of the four of us before leaving.

The drive was nice, we kinda went up into Vermont and found a charming town called Wilmington and I just HAD to stop for ICE CREAM. We had the top down and it was just the most gorgeous day. 

We made our way to Colrain Massachusetts a very small town (it had a post office but no other commerce it seemed) that really was in the middle of nowhere. The nearest gas station was a twenty minute drive through the woods. A small group of Campers hung out and made pizza and yakked and played guitar and sang and it was a delightfully pleasant gathering. When it started to get dark, I walked down the hill to get a sweatshirt and a flashlight and decided to drive back up the hill. That is when I discovered we had no brakes. The pedal just went straight to the floor. Nothing to be done at that point so we just enjoyed the rest of the evening.

We didn't get any pics of the group oddly enough. I guess we were too engrossed in conversation or stuffing pizza into our face. We finished off the evening at Charles' awesome "green" home. I woke up early the next morning and caught up on Facebook and played my turns in Words with Friends, Scrabble, Dice with Buddies and Scramble with Friends. Yes that is a cigarette in my hand. I had gotten about five months into my quit when the last of a series of sucky events occurred. I have given myself permission to smoke for the summer and then I am looking forward to quitting again with Champix (Chantix in America) because it made it super easy to quit and I slept better while taking it than I have in the past two decades. Seriously, 8-9 hours every night. Now I'm back to my usual 5, sigh.

Charles' home really is stunning with lovely views into the wilderness. When everyone was up it was time to tackle the brake problem. There was no brake fluid in the container and noone attending the reunion had any in their car so Charles took us to the one gas station where we purchased the last two bottles on the shelf. While in the little town of Shelburne Falls, Charles showed us the "sights". The Bridge of Flowers, the Glacial Potholes and the covered bridge. Quaint. Then we headed back to add the brake fluid to the car.

As I had ascertained that there were no garages open nor VW service bays at any dealerships since it was Memorial Day, we decided to try our luck with failing brakes and make the five hour drive to Conshohocken, PA. I kept hoping that the brakes would fix themselves again but it wasn't to be. Midway through our journey we stopped for gas, realized there were essentially no brakes and had to shift down to slow. And do the Fred Flinstone thing for the final stop. Ugh. The brake fluid was gone again so we bought some more and then discovered that when I pushed on the brake pedal, brake fluid squirted out to the ground. I couldn't tell if it was from the cylinder or from the hydraulic line, but we were at a service area on the 95 with no idea how far a garage was, no idea where we would stay if we did have it towed so I came up with a plan. We will simply be the slowest vehicle at all times on the road. Total folly, I know, but it worked. The highway was fine but those last couple miles on surface streets were a challenge. Slowing enough to make sure the red lights turned green before we arrived at the intersection was the most difficult, but I spotted a garage just before we arrived at Roger's and knew we would be dropping the car off there in the morning.

Camper Roger (aka Blanche) greeted us with vodka tonics and it was quite clear he had had a head start on us. Roger is a happy drinker though so that was fun. We walked to a nearby restaurant and had some delicious food. Calamari to start, a fiesta salad for me and seafood pasta for Serge and Roger had the ravioli. I chose Blue Moon beer which I always do where it is offered. The next day we dropped the car off and waited for the call. Roger had taken the day off to hang out with us and we were maybe going to go into Philadelphia to play tourist but Roger's back was acting up so we basically sat on the porch all day sipping drinks. It was just lovely and there was wonderful entertainment from Sammy Jo, Roger's grand nephew who will surely be a successful comedian some day. I have never seen a 3 year old with such perfect comedic timing. Charmed the socks off of us.

What a lovely way to spend the day. It's always drink time at Roger's, yay! The call came finally and there were multiple breaks in the hydraulic line and the whole thing had to be replaced. It was finally done around 4pm so we could continue our journey to the DC suburb of Silver Spring MD to see VUBOQ, also known as Steven. When I picked up the car, I was so psyched that it was fixed that I pumped my arm on the way out and uttered "YAY!" since I was so happy. I heard the guy behind the counter let out a big laugh at that. Glad I could share the happiness.

We arrived into the DC area just as one of the most wicked thunderstorms I have ever been in was unleashing it's fury. Constant lightning, the sky dark as night and we could see absolutely nothing except blurred hazard lights as everyone on the road put them on. It was more intense than the automatic car wash. And it made it really difficult to find Steven's house because we couldn't see the addresses and GPS was inaccurate about the actual placement of his building. After several trips around the block we found it. Steven greeted us with his special homemade cocktails. Mine was blueberry infused gin with Italian lemon soda. Serge's was tea infused vodka with a splash of Peach nectar and something else, I forget.

Steven forbade me from posting this on Facebook but he didn't say nuthin about the blog and it is one of my favorite shots from the trip. We went out for Mexican food (I will never say no to Mexican food.) and came back for cookies and more drinks. It was pretty hot that night and sleep was a bit fitful, but it was great to hang out with him and meet his best friend neighbor upstairs Tomoko. We talked about our time in Japan and before we knew it, those who had to work in the morning were off to bed. The next morning we discovered that Steven had no coffee in the house. Correction, he had no caffeinated coffee. So we drank decaf and confirmed to ourselves once again that decaf doesn't cut it. Once on the road, first order of business was high octane coffee. We headed off to Blogger Mark's place in Lewes DE. Yay, we get to visit a state we have never been to.

I love Agnes, our GPS. She has real time traffic updates and at a certain point started showing an 18 minute delay then 23 then 46 and *poof* she asked, "I found a route that is 42 minutes faster, would you like to take that route?" Uh, yes, yes we do. I can't imagine why anyone would push the no button. She took us into a shopping center and exited us out the other side on a different road and we zig zagged our way across the state of Delaware.

We arrived at Mark and Joe's beautiful home and met Marvin, a feisty little chihuahua. We went out for a yummy seafood lunch and took a walk on the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach. It was a bit cool and overcast but we could see how it would really be rocking on a warm summer day. Mark showed us around town and then we went back and hung out talking until Joe came home. It was so effortless, like meeting a friend after not having seen them in a long time. But in this case, it was the first time we had met in person. That's the great thing about the blogging years. I feel like I know these people and consider them friends even though it was all virtually. Bloggers blog their real selves for the most part and Mark is just as down to earth and genuine as you can imagine. It was great meeting Joe too, such a sweet guy. They took us out to another fabulous seafood restaurant and I had the best lobster roll of my life. And I have had many. I should go Yelp that for them, it was heaven in my mouth.

Then we went back and played with Marvin and we showed them Heads Up and it was great fun. I Facebooked Serge's response when trying to guess Yoda and after we got exasperated mimicking Yoda, we said, "Rhymes with Soda!" and Serge responded, "Spartacus!" So funny. Mark made a boo-boo too when he said while I was trying to guess "Pegasus", "It's a horse with one horn!" to which I naturally answered "unicorn" but then Joe clarified no, not a horse with one horn, a horse with wings. Then I correctly guessed it.

Marvin dominating. To cap off the night after Joe headed off to bed we had some prosecco and shot the shit well into the night. Slept great and then walked over to have breakfast at a local joint. Then it was time to head to the big apple.

Agnes started to alert us to traffic problems but little did I know she was going to end up taking us into Manhattan to get to Brooklyn. Really, we were coming up from the South so I didn't think that would happen. Unfortunately traffic conditions and our constant yes to her questions whether or not we wanted to take the fastest route necessitated it. I HATE DRIVING IN MANHATTAN. It is my second time and I certainly hope it is the last. We finally made it to the huge apartment inhabited by campers Michael, Eric and soon but not yet arrived at that point John.

The apartment was very big by NY standards and there were three floors like this and a great little balcony.
Michael had to work so he left the key under the matt for us and left us instructions to get to the subway and the wifi code. Such a perfect host. We stashed our things and headed out. We headed to Michael's work to say hi and then went down to Whole Foods at Columbus circle, grabbed some sushi and went into to Central Park to eat it and people watch.

That skinny little skyscraper (oxymoron?) looked nearly finished and we commented how pissed the residents of the building behind must be, their view of Central Park forever sullied. We remembered the generous pours at happy hour at Posh so headed over there for a martini. I kept asking Serge if we could go to Nobu 57 for dinner, but he was a no, and he was right it is really too expensive for us to splurge like that right now and we HAVE already been there twice.

So a couple martinis there, then a couple of beers at Flaming Saddles which has been named best gay bar in New York City. I certainly liked the bartenders and I drooled over the arms of one of them and he caught me staring and said something and I said, "I just can't get over how perfect your arms are." And he lit up and said, "Thank you, you know that is the part of my body that I'm most self-conscious about." Well he shouldn't be I assured him. Then we headed out to look for something to eat. We happened upon a crowded chinese place and I am not a big fan of it usually, but Serge wanted some so in we went. We sat down and the menu was huge and had so many things and we had had drinks so when the waitress arrived with the hot tea, Serge asked if they had Singapore Noodles and the waitress pointed to something on the menu and we both said, I'll take it! It was my first time having that and it was darned good. We both cleared our plates. I got a great fortune in my fortune cookie too.

My jaw about hit the floor when the bill came though. $18.00 with tax. Are you kidding me? We are in New York City, you can't go to Starbucks for $18. What a happy dance we did outside. I wanted to cruise through Time's Square before meeting up with Michael at the apartment to take some pics.

We hung out with Michael and had a lovely time catching up, talking about other campers, explaining why we can't go again this year (mostly about $) and before we knew it it was bed time. The next day we were astonished to find another household with NO COFFEE in it. We settled for black tea, but despite the claims of equal caffeine, it just isn't the same. So after stopping at a local coffee joint for the real thing Michael took us to the High Line park which we had been to but only after it first opened. Now it is much longer.

It was a lovely day, perfect temperature and since it wasn't the weekend, the park wasn't too crowded. Michael insisted on taking us out to lunch, we tried to pay but he was having none of it. Thanks again to a perfect host.

He went with us to Century 21 where we always stop by to buy shoes. I found a cute pair right away and Serge did too. Fastest trip there I can remember. Then Michael had to go pretty himself for a date later and Serge and I decided to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge which we have done before but it is a wonderful way to view the city.

Then we went back to chill a bit before heading to our final stop on the road trip, East Meadow Long Island. Traffic was just awful and my bladder about exploded by the time we got there. Doc's got me on a diuretic as it seems my family history has finally caught up with me on the blood pressure front so I can't be away from a bathroom for too much time. I almost peed in a bottle but we had the top down so it might not have been all that discreet. We were greeted warmly at blogger Jess and Marc's home. Their dog is sick and no one is sure quite what is wrong with him so they were understandably a bit preoccupied. I only got a couple pics because it just didn't seem too celebratory with worrying about the dog. We had a lovely dinner though and homemade brownies and ice cream for dessert. The next day Marc made a lovely breakfast and we readied ourselves for the 7 hour trek home.

Poor little guy. I hope Dodger feels better real soon.

The drive home was uneventful but another gorgeous spring day. We had originally planned to head over to the Boston area but for a variety of reasons decided to skip that. All in all we spent less than a grand and that was with the car repair so a very successful vacation all in all. And we had big big fun. Thanks to all our hosts!

I am hoping this marks a more frequent blog posting phase. I feel like I have found myself again, that I got my voice back, that I got my mojo back and that life is good again. I hope to share that with y'all more often now. But I will not be doing marathon posts such as this one. I should have broken this up into several posts but it's done now so I am posting. Peace.


anne marie in philly said...

OMB, you were in CONSHOHOCKEN?????

that's only 15 minutes from my house!

now I am bummed out. :(

next time you get down this way, we all do a meetup, K? :)

Jay Simser said...

Thanks for the blog post. Facebook is nice but I really - really your blog posts. I would love to go on a road trip. Hopefully I will get to have one after I get the cataracts taken of. Hugs. j

CoffeeDog said...

Sorry you've had some rough patches, I hope things stay on an upswing for you. Come to Atlanta! Xo

A Lewis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A Lewis said...

I'm glad that the USA was good to you. Looks like a very nice trip! (PS, for the record, I think I've been off my blog longer than you!)


you didn't come to West, By Goddess, Texas?..damn, I would have bought you guys skunk eggs and pivo's...and kolache for dessert..come down for Westfest on Labor Day Weekend..czech us

Breenlantern said...

What a great recap of your trip. I hope you blog more and we definitely hope you guys will make Breen Acres an annual destination. We loved having you.

Heartinhand said...

So if y'all want the skinny on Torn, please deposit cold hard cash in my bank account and I'll tell you the whole thing!
(Not really, but a girl can try!)
Anyway, lovely post, as per usual, you've just reaffirmed why we all love and miss you when you don't post FOR MONTHS! Glad the brakes breaking didn't cause you any physical harm! And I love that you went to meet bloggers along the way. If you're ever out this way I have real coffee, for the record.
Love you!

Mark in DE said...

What a great recap of your trip, and what a fun trip you had! It was really great to visit with you & Serge and we hope you'll come back again when its sunny! At least we had regular coffee... ;-)

I agree with the others; facebook is nice for quick updates but nothing can replace the way you write in your blog. I hope this signals a return to it.

Big hugs!!

Blobby said...

OH, I've spent a lot of time in Conshohocken.

Sounds like a full trip. Sorry about your mystery bad time. Hope it works out for you.

And pretty ballsy doing without brakes.

wcs said...

Exciting! I would never have the guts to go without brakes. Love seeing the guys in the photos (and the video). Everyone seems to be going to NYC these days. I haven't been in ages and your photos make me want to. Glad you feel up to doing more blogging. I enjoy your writing.

tornwordo said...

See now, if Blogger had only offered a like button years ago, maybe FB wouldn't have taken over. Suffice it to say, I LIKE all your comments!

Rebekah said...

Okay, I love your writing. YOu need to keep at it. And these kinds of trips are the bomb. Relaxing, fun, the little things. I know things too. Rox is not the only one to know your secrets...

Rick said...

Looks like a great trip. I still enjoying checking out the blogs and photos more so than on FB. Did Mark give you guys a ride in Big Bertha? Again, thanks for sharing!

Crystal Carson said...

I found your blog to be highly informative. My husband and I have an investment property in Florida, and maybe its bad luck or maybe the property management companies down there are that bad, but we have had similar issues. We are hoping that after we check on the property we can make a trip out of it, like you did.

Crystal Carson @ Tacky Jacks