Monday, 19 July 2010
Today, I have been exploring the fact that there is more to Indianapolis besides anything to do with motor racing.
Among the great number of museums is the Eiteljorg Museum, dedicated to the history of American Indians and Western Art. There are totem poles, wigwams and plenty of other exhibits that can be classified as fine arts.
On the lower level is an interactive stagecoach exhibit. I was quite happy strolling around having a look at everything, but one of the guides insisted I climbed aboard to get an experience to what it was like to ride one of the oldest forms of transport.
Inside, there was no video or audio (which I was expecting as the ‘experience’ of riding in the carriage). But as I sat down, the lady walked around the back to vigorously shake the carriage, making it rock.
On another hot day, being by the water would be a good way of keeping cool.
I headed for the White River State Park, and found it hard to believe that such a place was just a 10-minute walk from the downtown area. Some lovely fountains act as the entrance to a vast park that stretches for many acres.
After enjoying that area, I walked back towards the city, but followed one of its’ hidden gems – hidden, that is for those who may frequent the shopping area only.
Following the water pathways lead you around external pieces of art and through to the Central Canal.
The large blue building is a new hotel which is due to open next spring.
One way to use the pathway is by hiring a Segway (spelling may be incorrect). With a platform to stand on between two wheels, they are motorised by battery power. I am sure that when these were invented a few years ago, part of the development was done in Plymouth – rings a bell!
The canal stretches for a couple of miles and goes under a number of bridges where the traffic heads into the main area of town, while on the water, several people were easing their way around by pedalboats and canoes.
I write as I prepare for my final night in Indianapolis. I think I could be tempted to return to the Slippery Noodle to enjoy a beer and some live blues music. I have had solids - and possibly the most unhealthy meal since being in The States. A double steakburger, fries, and a side dish of chilli that was filled to the brim with beans.
Tomorrow morning I hit the road for a 320-mile drive back into Ohio, but this time to the north as I head for Cleveland.
Sunday, 18 July 2010
The tour of the racetrack is done on a bus, and the line of the day from the guide revealed the fact that cars do around 230 mph on the racetrack - we're just going to manage around the 30 mark.
The scale of the place is amazing. When you consider that it can take well over 400,000 spectators, it may be surprising to learn that the privately owned venue only holds three races each year.
The bus leaves the main entrace of the venue to head straight for the tarmac known the world over.
The scale of the place is amazing. When you consider that it can take well over 400,000 spectators, it may be surprising to learn that the privately owned venue holds only three races each year.
Although I would confess to not being the biggest of motor racing fans, it was quite a feeling to be between the seemingly endless stands and to be on the surface where the Indianapolis 500 is held each year. Each lap is two-and-a-half miles, which means each of the straights are over a mile in length.
Next Sunday, a NASCAR event is taking place and some of the teams have already started to arrive.
They are placed in an area called 'Millionaires Row' It is aptly named, as all the motorhomes there are worth well over $1million each.
After completing a circuit of the track, it was to the museum where many of the winning cars over many decades are housed. It was good to see the cars of British drivers such as Jim Clark and Graham Hill.
As I made my way to the car, I was relieved that the weather had held off for the tour as a thunderstorm began.
The drive back to the city took me to The Children's Museum of Indianapolis.
With five floors, there are many exhibitions which include a very popular section full of dinosaurs.
The exhibition that particularly took my attention celebrates 50 years of Etch-A-Sketch.
There were examples of the most intricate images completed by professional artists that took up to 80 hours to complete.
Bet they would have been upset if they accidentally erased their masterpieces when part way through!
Saturday, 17 July 2010
Stopped at a rest area 20 miles from Indianapolis where a machine invites the user to push a button for a free map of the area. With the temperature touching 92, there was a little more freshness in the air today as I headed towards Indianapolis in the State of Indiana.
As I crossed the State line, it became apparent that the local authorities don't take kindly to driving offences, as can be seen in the photo taken in the downtown area.
Also noticeable was the amount of people walking around the city, much more densely populated than Columbus. But as I returned from an afternoon walk, the TV news revealed the reason why. Over 100,000 people had descended on Indianapolis for the Black Expo Summer Celebration.
I am writing this blog at 11pm, so imagine my surprise to learn of what happened 90 minutes ago just a couple of blocks away.
I had spent the evening in a nearby bar enjoying some good beer, nice food and great local music. A blues bar called The Slippery Noodle was recommended to me as a live music venue used by locals who are very knowledgeable about their music, and I soon got talking to some regulars who were only too pleased to talk about the acts that frequent downtown Indy.
At the time of writing, lightning can be seen in the distance. The teatime weather forecast was predicting - to the minute - where storms would strike. They were expected to miss Indy but were all around.
Friday, 16 July 2010
Fantastic scrambled egg, Greek style, at a local eatery before a look around the city. Yes, it has skyscrapers but most of the city is low-level and very well spread out. It was also noticeable that, for a large city, there was no mad rush as everyone went about their business.
Visited a local vodka distillery with a difference, where the two guys who recently launched the business took a huge risk in that they had to have everything in place before a licence could be granted to distil.
Now, they have started producing OYO vodka, the name taken from the original spelling of Ohio.
I was asked if I wanted a taste. It would have been rude to refuse. But first, I had to taste a 'major brand' vodka, so I could then compare the locally made vodka.
I usually take vodka with lemonade, but as there was none on hand, I sampled the OYO 80% proof and it was wonderful! Even at 11am. I know a local bar that serves it, so may well head there tonight.
From there, to the sobering confines of the Ohio Statehouse.
I found it quite amusing that on the steps of this grand and historic building, lunchtime concerts are held on Fridays.
Inside are where all the big decisions are made, from where the elected speaker oversees order as the representatives from each county within Ohio discuss and vote on State law.
I'm not sure if any Senators would frequent the place I went to for lunch.
Most main courses are $3 (around £2). The place was full. Everyone having a good time as they eat real hot dogs from an expansive menu that contained all manner of sauces, pickles, meats and chilli to go over the dogs.
Could you imagine a Senator saying: "Just popping out to Dirty Harry's".
Elizabeth, the owner, runs three other eateries in Columbus. She is bringing good, old-fashioned food to the masses.
I opted for the dog called 'Whoa Nellie!
It was crammed with meat. There was a sausage in there, somewhere. But there was so much meat I could barely see the sausage.
I knew this was going to be messy if my untrained hands picked it up. I must have stood out like ... well, an Englishman in America as I ate it with a knife and fork.
During the afternoon, met a very interesting guy called Dan Dougan. Dan is no stranger to radio in Columbus and also has had a big say in promoting and staging music events over a considerable amount of time.
Could have talked with him for hours as we discussed great gigs, the hottest bands and also the very strong local music scene.
The day out was completed with a peek at the first purpose-built soccer stadium in the country.
Columbus Crew are still at the top of their division, despite a recent dip in form.
The Crew are the reigning league champions but need to get back to winning ways as they face 2nd-placed New York Red Bulls tomorrow, who could overtake them with a win. The big news is that The Red Bulls have just signed Thierry Henry. It remains to be seen whether he will make his debut in Columbus.
Much as I would love to see Columbus win, especially if playing against the cheating Frenchman (who had the audacity to claim a 'handball' against an opponent in The World Cup), I will be making my way to Indianapolis tomorrow - after sampling a night on the Columbus North High Street.
Thursday, 15 July 2010
First to the Hershey Hotel. Of course, built by the great Mr Hershey, but recently added to with around $60million dollars worth of extended facilities. The outdoor leisure park was something else. Wish I had my speedos!
The on to experience the history of the Hershey dynasty on an interactive tour with items that were out of this world as far as technology is concerned.
It was then on to the open road to continue west.
After a short drive on Route 22, Interstate 81 took me to the Pennsylvania turnpike and onto I76 then to I70. That was the road that would take me all the way to my destination, so I reckoned it was a good time to stop for coffee. As I crossed the state border into West Virginia, the speed limit signs were set at 70 - they had been 55 and 65 all the way to this point.
As I pulled into a rest area, the lady said it was free coffee, as it was the bottom of the pot. Where would you hear that in England? Of course, I left a good tip, and then returned to Interstate 70. It was then I realised a problem. Coming up to 5pm - rush hour - and road works had closed the road ahead.
All traffic was being diverted off I70 onto I470. But the diversion was three miles ahead and nothing was moving ... for ages. 45 minutes later, the traffic crawled to the exit for 470 - it was now rush hour and the temperature gauge rising.
Eventually, the traffic started to move a little quicker. I kept to the speed limit, but others flew past me. Then one car got stopped by the Highway Patrol. Pulled over and no doubt a big fine.
260 miles down and 120 to go, the boards on the side of the highway counted down the miles. When Columbus came into view it was a welcome sight.
Checking in at the hotel, found a great place to eat and then a bar for, what I consider, to be a well-deserved couple of beers - first in two days.
Tomorrow, a day to explore the rich history that Columbus has to offer.
Wednesday, 14 July 2010
So, a tour of the chocolate factory and the tour of the Hershey estate was a must - as was the chance to make my own bar of chocolate.
Not only can you decide what goes into the chocolate bar (vanilla, sprinkles etc) and choose plain or dark but you get to design your own label as well.
It is suggested that it is eaten quickly as it may melt over 72 degrees - not good for someone living in and out of a suitcase at present.
On the subject of food, breakfast part of the B&B experience was amazing. Fruit, and to follow - a warm cinnamon cake. Then, something Peter Gorton - celebrity chef and regular on my show - would be proud of. Eggs presented inside layers of bacon to look like a flower - and REAL hash browns. Not that rubbish we get in England, but loose and without the casing.
After the chocolate factory, a visit to the nearby motor museum, and I had to get a photo of this beauty. Does anyone know if the city of Plymouth (the original) get any royalties from the use of the name?
Imagine my delight when I discovered that one of the exhibition areas is full of ... buses! It all got rather sad at the stage as I wondered how drivers spent so long in those old cabs withouth the aid of power steering. (Those who regularly listen to the show may recall I passed a challenge to learn to drive buses - and have the licence to prove it).
Seeing the Pennsylvanis Capitol Building in Harrisburg, where Senate makes its' decisions, and also the American Civil War Museum gave the opportunity to learn about American history on another busy day.
Thursday will see a long drive after a morning in Hershey - and following another superb country breakfast. I will be heading for Columbus as my journey continues west and into the state of Ohio.
But the Subaru has enough leg room and my luggage can get into the boot. Sorry, trunk.
Fighting my way through the New York traffic from Mid-Manhattan was an experience. Most drivers use their horns. I don't know why. I bet most of them don't know, either.
Then, the rain came. It was a heavy downpour that lasted a couple of hours. There was relief from that as I found my way to The Holland Tunnel to go through the Hudson Rover and into New Jersey.
The sights were quite amazing. All roads had surface water that was reaching the bumpers of cars. An 18-wheeler overtook me at speed an engulfed the Subaru in what seemed to be a tidal wave.
I saw a couple of cars which had seemingly cut-out with the water reaching up to engine level. As I flicked through the radio stations, one report stated that four inches had fallen in little more than an hour.
I navigated my way through the road works taking place in time for the opening of the New Meadowlands Stadium.
Seating 82,000, it will soon host its first game - a pre-season game between the shared occupants: The New York Giants and The New Jork Jets.
Then the season begins in earnest. But the big story is that before it officially opened, it was awarded the Super Bowl in 2014.
So imagine my delight when I was invited to walk across the pitch! The new turf was similar to a new carpet being walked on for the first time.
The drive that lay ahead would take me a short distance through Delaware before entering Pennsylvania and to my place for rest for the next two nights.
I had a reservation at a B&B. But I have never seen a B&B quite like this!
Between Hershey and Harrisburg with a postal address of Hummelstown, it is off a very quiet country road with stables across the way and so peaceful after the hustle and bustle of New York.
Frank, the owner, was on hand to welcome me at the end of a tiring day. He was certainly a sight for sore eyes after the rain and a long afternoon/evening drive.
Monday, 12 July 2010
I have come to the conclusion that however much of New York City you want to see, not just in Manhattan but in all the boroughs, you won't have enough time - unless you live here. Never a dull moment.
Last night I walked from My hotel to Soho - a far trek that built up a thirst. Soho is a cosmopolitan area with narrow tree-lined streets, one of which was full of chess shops. I wondered why they were all together where any potential customer of chess boards, sets, tables etc could easily compare prices.
But that was of little concern to those playing on tables all the way along the pavement ... sorry, sidewalk.
Met an interesting guy this afternoon. Christopher Heywood is the vice president of NYC and company, the guys that look after www.nycgo.com with a whole host of ideas, traveller tips and a great knowledge of everything NYC.
So, tomorrow I bid farewell to The Big Apple until my flight home a week on Saturday.
I pick up my rental car and a very short drive to the New Meadowlands Stadium for a look around the new home of the New York Giants and The New York Jets.
Then its an afternoon drive of 160 miles to Hershey and my hotel for the next two nights at Harrisburg.
Wish me luck as I remember ... steering wheel on the left ... drive on the right ... no gearstick.
Sunday, 11 July 2010
It was with that I aimed for The Rockefeller Center. I knew my fear of heights would be tested, but with stunning views promised I bit the bullet - and bullet would be a good way to describe the speed of the lift.
Then, after passing through the bag check, came the bullet. Up 67 floors.
A strong coffee was needed after getting back down to earth.
The cool air off the Hudson River was wonderful and the Saturday afternoon throng of thousands of tourists clicking away at their cameras pointed not only at the famous landmark, but the incredible views of lower Manhattan across the water.
At least I found a bar that I discovered would be showing the game - and they sell Bass on draught.
I think I got the shot that I wanted, but noticed that the officer was staring at me.
"You taking a picture of the sun? Are you mad?"
I explained myself, and all was well. Not so stupid after all - well, maybe.
Saturday, 10 July 2010
It seemed to take an age. After leaving home at 6.30am on Friday, I arrived at my hotel at 11.00pm. Add on the five hours time difference and a bed for the night was a welcome sight.
Although I have visited NYC before, I have never used the subway, and I was to experience a quick lesson on how to navigate the transport system.
On arrival at JFK airport, the Air Train takes passengers to the various transport connections to get to the city. On departing the Air Train, you then pay for that journey before you can get through the barriers and also buy your tickets for the further trips.
I needed to get the Jamaica Rail Road train into Penn Station, and my combined tickets would cost $12.25. How many foreigners have the exact change needed, bearing in mind all the ticketing is done through machines, no human ticket sales.
So, with the help of an accomodating railway worker it was suggested I put in a $20 bill and purchase a Metrocard - so its good for journeys on future days. I feel like a New Yorker already, without the hassle of queuing to buy a ticket on my next foray on the subway.
Penn Station is weird. I arrived at track 16 at a station where all the platforms are tightly packed together. The next job was to find the subway.
Withouth too much difficulty, The 'E' line was found and I alighted at Chambers St, adjacent to the World Trade Center construction site.
My hotel is the World Center Hotel, brand new and the first new building to be opened to the public after the rebuilding following 9/11.
I may have been very tired, but as I walked around the WTC site to my hotel, the round-the-clock workers could be heard behind the billboards that surround the site gave a huge sense of the spirit in the way in which the city is re-building.
When I checked into the room, I could not believe the view.
Eighteen floors up with the lights of the skyscrapers working as a backdrop to the birds' eye view of the WTC construction site.
When I woke this morning, the view was equally as impressive, and just a little more as I went up to the 20th floor - and onto the outdoor terrace for breakfast.
Today I get the New York City pass that will entitle me to go slighlty overboard with my camera.
After 81 degrees on arrival last night, thunderstorms are predicted today - and I came all this way without a coat!
Sunday, 4 July 2010
The trip will start in New York City.
I last visited The Big Apple two years ago, when I was staying in Massachusetts. I drove from Cambridge, just north of Boston on a day trip of around 220 miles each way. However, a missed turning meant I didn't park at the last commuter rail stop before the city boundary.
Then I hit a queue of traffic caused by the meeting of two 18-wheelers in The Bronx as I headed towards Manhattan. After a couple of hours stuck, looking at the sky-rise flats, the last few miles of the journey could eventually be made.
However, when I made it to Manhattan, no parking lot had a space. I turned back to the direction from which I came and stopped on a highway for en evening meal on my return to Cambridge.
I am hoping for better luck this time.
From New York, I will be heading west to visit some towns not yet experienced. To Hershey, home of the famous chocolate and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for a couple of nights.
Then, it will be on to Columbus. From the state capital of Ohio my drive will continue to Indianapolis.
That's as far west as I will drive as then I turn north-east and to a city of plenty of memories and friends. To Cleveland. Home of the Browns.
There awaits an extra feelgood factor this time around, but more about that when I arrive there.
The longest driving stretch of the tour will be from Cleveland for the flight home from JFK airport.
In all, a driving distance of 1,450 miles according to the route finders with plenty of breaks in between for beer, good food and plenty of chances to use my camera.
I spoke to Marble Office (management) and the thought of making a travelogue of the adventure for a special radio programme in the Christmas schedule was born. So my roving microphone will travel with me as I aim to meet a few characters and experience some history and attractions.
I will endeavour to blog as I go, and this first attempt at using the website will hopefully get me familiar with how to upload pictures and discover which layout I think works best.
Wish me luck as I remember you can turn right on a red light (but NOT in NYC) - and I still wonder what the flashing red traffic lights mean.