Mex 2010 Blog # 2 The Road

Mexico 2010, Blog # 2                                          November 1, 2010

Dear ones and all,

Halloween’s come and gone, and All Saints’ Day doesn’t seem to count for much on the edge of the pine barrens here in far off New Jersey. We’re back on the Road again. Heading south. And my grin fills all the space between the side-view mirrors.

I don’t know what it is about being on the Road that makes my heart sing like this. Maybe it’s something in the American character. I bet that if you turn on any country music station at random, within an hour you will hear at least two Road songs. Eighteen-wheelers on the highway. Hop in the car with the girlfriend and set out to anywhere just so long as it isn’t here. Lonesome roads; red Georgia clay roads; roads that cross the Great Divide; dustbowl roads; kudzu alleys. Roads as metaphors for freedom, allegories of life; roads as substitutes for life; roads as escape hatches, portals to opportunity. Roads as the antidotes to responsibility.

None of the other cultures in which we have lived, none of the language traditions with which we are familiar and whose songs we love and sing – none comes even close to the American tradition of Road worship.

We picked a glorious day to set out. The last colors of October were still sharp against the blue sky. On 138 west of Kingston, and then on the Merritt Parkway, we felt we were driving through tunnels of red and gold: lemon-yellow beach, orange and ochre Norway maples, russet scrub oak, wine-colored sumac, and every once in a while the big wow punch of a sugar maple in full crimson. Blue sky overhead. “The Wind in the Willows,” downloaded from the Kingston Free Library, coming through the speakers.

We stopped for the night just outside of Atlantic City. Thought we found a deal in one of those regional highway coupon books for a bayside Ramada Inn, but it turns out that the AARP discount was a better price yet. Yes, it’s come to this. On this short stretch of US 40 we must have counted 10 fairly new, multi-story, top-of-the-line chain hotels, and none of them had more than three cars in the parking lot. Clear signs of hard times. As we drove back to the Ramada after dinner we saw a pair of room lights in only one of the ten inns.

One of the joys of Roading is, of course, dinner at the local roadhouse. We asked the two Indian deskmen at the Ramada where to go to dinner, and they suggested we drive into Atlantic City and go into the Tropicana, Trump Tower, Harrah’s, or any of the casinos, because they each have a dozen restaurants, good food at reasonable prices. We checked them on line. Reasonable was $40 + per entrée. So we drove in the other direction, toward Pleasantville, looking for the Italian Grille. In five miles we didn’t see it, so we drove into Pistol Pete’s Steak House and Saloon. It was lit up, looked hokey, and what the hell!

If we were touting to the Michelin Guide we’d recommend two stars (their cue for “worth a detour”). Linda had a mammoth rare prime rib, melt-in-your-mouth tender, and fresh mixed vegetables cooked to the point of perfection. I went with a rack of lamb, and was astounded to find that they brought me the whole rack: 8 chops, done to perfection on a mound of seasoned mashed potatoes. Neither of them as much as $20. Nice presentation, linen napkins, cheese and garlic flavored rolls, a nice (Linda says) shiraz. Three different ball games on the TVs in the corners of the room.

And in the morning, with Willie N. on the I-pod, we’ll be back on the Road again.

 David & Linda

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