The reason we decided to drive back from the East Coast was that a) I figured we’d be tired of trains and buses by that time and b) I got a killer deal from Enterprise thru Kayak that amounted to a coast to coast rental for ten days for $220. My only previous experience with Enterprise was the Eureka office stiffed me when I rented a car for a trip to the Bay Area. I waited awhile for them to come up with a car, then ended driving my own car. I can only report that this time our experience with Enterprise could not have been better. Here’s where we drove to/through.
Albany NY- An old but somewhat majestic small city. It was at this point that the GPS on Chris’ phone became really useful. We located a place to stay -a Motel 6 on Watervliet Avenue run by a nice Indian couple- clean and basic for $64- and then we got overconfident and decided to try a Chinese/Japanese hybrid on the main drag called ( I think) the Ichiban, although when you Google it it comes up Takara. In any event, it was AWFUL- the worst meal of the trip. My tonkatsu was like pieces of wood and what Chris got was equally horrible. Be forwarned!
Erie PA-We had been debating whether to try to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland but stopped short of Cleveland to check out Erie PA. We drove for several miles along the shore of Lake Erie, the drove into Erie, which seemed to be a nice town down on its luck. Lots of empty storefronts and homeless folks- this is the northern edge of the Rust Belt-but when you go down towards the harbor, there is nice development and a Sheraton with harbor views that was totally sold out on a Monday night. The harbor
cruise wasn’t running, this being October and all- but there were a fair amount of restaurants and I would definitely consider Erie if I were to go back. We found a hotel (we were using Trip Advisor at this point), the Avalon Hotel and Conference Center which was a real deal at $86. Super hotel, quiet with every possible amenity, big rooms, and a nice breakfast. We got good Chinese takeout too, but I can’t recall where.
Terre Haute IN- Indiana was the WIERDEST place on the trip, hands down. The state as observed from Hwy 70 is a jumble of billboard advertising for fundamentalist churches, porn shops and Republican candidates. We were enchanted to find a place called Brazil IN which supposedly had three motels but when we got there we couldn’t find them. We asked at a store where the clerk said they were three or four miles down the road but she’d never seen them and couldn’t say how they were. We decided to continue on to Terre Haute, but when we got there and inquired at the Hollday Inn, we were told the entire town had been sold out because of a training conference for the local prison. The only place that had a vacancy was a one-star outfit called the Statesman, which, luckily, had just changed hands and was trying to improve itself. It really wasn’t too bad- the main flaw was a noisy heater and also the faucet which had just been installed was too short for the sink and discharged its water all over the counter instead of into the sink. The Indian proprietor was very pleasant but his English was really bad. When we commented about the shortage of rooms in town, his version was that there was a festival and that the vendors had taken all the rooms. On the road into town there was a high overhead sign advertising something called the Tokyo so we took a chance. Chris was still indignant over the horrilble meal in Albany, so when we entered the Tokyo he interrogated the hostess and the other staff about where the chefs had learned their trade, in other words, were they Japanese. We had a very nice meal but oddly, the salad was the star of the show- chilled, fresh, crunchy. Terre Haute being a college town, there were some amenities, like a Borders, so it passed the “survivable” test.
Salina KS- Chris came up with the fact that Salina is the geographic center of the US. All I can say is that the PEOPLE in Salina were the nicest we met anywhere, cheerful, helpful. We even found decent Chinese food! Though we can’t remember where. Our lodging was at a Baymont Inn and was very satisfactory although they are bcoming infected with the high-bed syndrome. At least this one I could get into. We have stayed at Baymonts before in Ohio. They are all new and have a small pool that no one uses because they don’t expect to find a pool there. Good breakfast, room $77.
Denver CO- to be addressed in a separate post.
SLC UT- We had a very long day driving to Salt Lake and I have little memory of the drive. My receipts indicate that we stayed in a Ramada on South State Street for $77 but I couldn’t tell you much about it. The fact is, that we had no complaints. Chris came up with some good Chinese takeout and we were both extremely road-weary by that time.
Reno NV- A long boring drive across the high desert. Somehow we got to talking about Mexican food and the fact that Chris had never enjoyed itl. Being a good sport, he agreed to try it once more and we found ourselves eating a late lunch at a jolly little place called Mariscos Del Rey in Winnemucca. The bar was busy at 2pm and the food was darned good, though not good enough to entice me back to Winnemucca or to entice Chris into trying Mexican again, though he was a good sport about it.
Reno NV- As we approached Reno I had visions of us staying in the area near the Peppertree but the GPS guided us to Harrah’s. It was cheap ($60) but not very relaxing. The parking grage is apparently on or near the train station and when the train goes though, the noise is absolutely terrifying, like being beneath the El in Chicago. Adding to our gloom were a lot of scary stories on the TV about a first winter storm and not being able to get through the mountains the next day. The tawdry casino didn’t entice me out of the room and we got takeout from an in-house noodle place, not bad at all. We got up at the crack of dawn and ran into torrential rains -HEAVY rains- all the way from Truckee to Sacramento, where it let up a little.
SF- We decided to spend the last night in San Francisco even though we had vowed to spend no more nights in overpriced SF but Chris came up with one of those coupon books they have at the rest stops which had a coupon for the Royal Pacific for $89. We’ve all stayed at the Royal Pacific, right? It was MUCH nicer than I remembered, nice shower, spacious room. It had been so long for me that my memory of the neighborhood was ‘way off; I had thought the Yank Sing was across the street and I couldn’t find Enrico’s on Broadway where it used to be. (Once I got back to my computer I discovered that Yank Sing has two locations now, both south of Market, and Enrico’s closed in 2006.)
The next day we returned the rental car to Enterprise at its Moscone Center location which was a short walk from the Transbay Terminal. The return went smoothly although I’m still waiting for a bill for the approximately 14 toll booths we whizzed by. We parted ways -still friends- me to the 145 bus to Eureka, him to the 4pm bus to LA. I got in after 10pm on Hallowe’en night. The City Cab picked me up as soon as they could but I’d make other arrangements next time. The McDonald’s closes at 11 and there’s no safe place to wait unless someone lets you in.
It’s good to be home.