Are We There Yet?

Saturday night we had a quiet dinner in the Capitol Bistro. Food equally good, service much better. We went briefly to a reception and then turned the clocks back and turned in.

Next a.m. we packed, ate a light breakfast and got on the bus at 10:30, an hour early so we could avoid the worst of the traffic for the football game that was starting at 1 in Baltimore. We navigated it successfully and pulled into the harbor for two hours of wandering around. First stop: the huge Barnes and Noble, which rests on the site of the power plant. The architect did a fabulous job of incorporating the smoke stacks into the design – so that every few feet there’s a small enclosure with books or cards or artwork. Much more attractive and less claustrophobic than the guard tower at the Newseum. Even the ladies room has some bright green metal and concrete ladder looking things, except the crossbars were close enough that an elf could climb them.

After Nancy and I wandered around for a bit she and Mike and Larry and I went to Phillips Seafood for lunch because I wanted crab cakes. Larry was hesitant because the one in D.C. wasn’t particularly good and had become a tourist trap. I thought this one would probably be the same, but the food proved that trap, or no, the place knew how turn out seafood. Two disappointments: Lunch and dinner menus posted at the entrance proved to be deceptive advertising. It turns out that the lunch menu with most of the sandwiches is available only during the week, but we didn’t find that out until we sat down. And the service was pretty disorganized. I asked for Tabasco sauce, which was on the station maybe three feet from the table but Mike had to ask a second time.

Otherwise everything was excellent. Larry and Nancy and Mike adored the lobster bisque. Nancy’s crab and spinach bowl, which came with nacho chips as an appetizer, could have fed three people for dinner. My sandwich had a 3 inch diameter crab cake that was almost as tall as it was wide with just enough savory filling to hold it together. I didn’t eat the roll and barely touched the french fries but stayed full until we stopped for dinner hours later. Larry also had a crab cake. Mike had a huge platter of fried everything, fed some of it to Larry and was also happy with the result.

Nancy and I took a quick walk down to the Rusty Scupper, the restaurant at the end of the pier. We passed the science museum, which looked fascinating. It is bookended (?!) by sculptures of green ten-speed bicycles. A mini sculpture from sister city Kawasaki, Japan, stood out and yet fit in with the sculpture like buildings, some all angular glass and aluminum, some rounded textured concrete and the green slopes up to the fort. We returned to find Larry and Mike watching the crew from a tall ship training vessel from Norway try to fix the gangplank so that visitors didn’t wind up in the harbor.

We left Baltimore about 2 p.m. and sailed along for a few miles and then came to a sea of tail lights that lasted into Delaware. I had the Washington Post to keep me entertained, including the excellent supplement on the Civil War so I didn’t mind too much.

The paper was so satisfying that I’ve felt no need to have my friend Thelma save a copy of her NY Times. In fact I think the Post is a better paper with much better national coverage, brighter features, more creative design. If I didn’t live in Connecticut and want the restaurant review (singular) and theater review (singular) on Sunday, I’d switch altogether.

Anyway we picked up a bit of speed through Delaware. Then we hit the NJ Turnpike, which turned into another parking lot. We stayed on there until we hit Exit 11. Our savvy bus driver pulled off onto the Garden State and from then we moved over the Tappan Zee and through the wilds of Westchester County. Had we not stopped in Baltimore, we probably could have made better time and been home by 6:30 p.m. As it was we didn’t stop for dinner until after 7 p.m., at a place on the fringes of the Gold Coast. I’m always puzzled because the view from the highways in that area yields up scrap metal concerns, rundown apartments buildings, and train tracks. From there we headed north and took I-84. I remember thinking it was a good route unless it snowed. And then I thought, Come on, it’s November 7. It won’t snow for weeks. Well, guess what was all over the ground the next morning? If we’d been a few hours later, we’d have been on the skating rink that always forms around Waterbury.

We finally arrived back at the parking lot at 9 p.m. Our bus driver from Constitution Coach did yeoman service. I remain in awe of anyone who can navigate one of those behemoths through the old windy, bridge-covered streets that form the northeastern segment of the United States. He dodged as much traffic as he could. He even took the guys to the grocery store to buy snacks for the reception. He kept the bus immaculate. I didn’t get a chance to ask, but I think he found the sterling silver Mayan calendar pendant that I thought was lost forever. I found the broken chain just before we stopped for dinner, When we got back on the bus, the pendant was gleaming in my seat!

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