hankrules2011

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Baltimore Trip

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 18, 2014

Well, Gretchen and I made a nice trip up to Maryland and back a few days ago and I thought I’d write a little bit about it. Last Thursday, after work we headed out on the road from Chattanooga up to Abingdon VA. It took about four hours. We stayed at the Alpine Motel, a retro motel that was somewhat decent. The next morning, we ate breakfast with our friends Chris and Stephanie. It was really good to see them.

It should have taken six hours to get up to Columbia MD, our destination. It took nearly nine. Traffic was the worst I’ve ever seen in my life. About 30 miles south of Roanoke, we got stopped by a wreck and sat still in traffic for an hour. That really slowed us down. Of course, the Virginia cops were out in full force, as always, so you can’t speed there to make up time. When we got to DC, we hit mega-traffic, which continued into Maryland and all the way to our destination. It took HOURS to get through that traffic, and it was in the middle of the afternoon, not during traffic hour. Weird.

We finally arrived at the Sheraton Columbia Town Center Hotel, where we’d be staying. We were on the fifth floor, and it was very nice. (I wrote reviews of many places on Trip Advisor. You can find them here.) The room wasn’t the biggest I’d seen, but it was plush and clean and we liked it. I’ve had to deal with bad insomnia for years, often getting up at 1 or 2 AM (like this morning), but the bed was so comfortable there, that I was able to sleep in until 8 every morning. It was awesome!

Friday night, we went to a restaurant called Clyde’s and met Gretchen’s parents there. We had a lovely meal and it was good to see them. Then we went back to the hotel and had drinks at the bar there before turning in.

Saturday we got up and went to Eggsplantation in Ellicot City to meet our friend Cindy for breakfast. I had pancakes and bacon and it was delicious. The place was nice, but pretty expensive. We looked at Cindy’s new car after breakfast, before gassing up (gas was so much more expensive there than in Tennessee) and heading to downtown Baltimore. We went to the Walters Art Museum. I have already written a review about it, so I won’t say much, but we enjoyed ourselves a great bit. It was free to get in, which was cool. We particularly liked the Egyptian, Greek, and Roman exhibits, as well as the medieval exhibit. It was cool seeing a mummy. When we left, we went to a quirky area of town called Hamden. It had tons of shops and restaurants and reminded me of Atlanta’s Little Five Points or L.A.’s Melrose Avenue. We parked and wandered around. We went in a little, extremely overcrowded used bookstore, but didn’t find anything we wanted. We ate lunch at a place Gretchen has talked about for years — Cafe Hon. It flat out sucked! The food was terrible and the service was worse. I gave it a really bad review on Trip Advisor. Gretchen was especially disappointed.

After we left Hamden, we drove back to areas Gretchen used to live in to check them out. It was nice to see parts of her history. Later, we went back downtown. We found a bizarre little parking area in an alley behind a building for $20. We thought it was a pretty good deal, cause all of the parking garages were full and we were going to go see a ballgame that night and it was fairly close to the ballpark. More on that later.

We walked to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor area. It was crowded, probably because it was such a beautiful day, but it was pretty neat. They had street performers, some pavilions with shops and restaurants in them, an old submarine you could tour, the World Trade Center, where you could go to the 27th floor to look out over the harbor, and more. We spent some time wandering around there before finally starting to head over to the ballpark. Outside the park, I bought a nice Orioles cap and it looked and felt pretty good. I did it even though I’m a Pirates fan. Heh. We arrived at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and waited for Gretchen’s two boys and a girlfriend to show up. It looked like a beautiful stadium. I had bought tickets online before we went, so we had sweet seats behind 1st base in the 24th row. They were shockingly expensive though. The kids finally showed up and we went in to find our seats. The stadium was beautiful, as advertised, but the seats were incredibly uncomfortable. I don’t know what midget designed that stadium, but I’m of average height, and my knees were jammed up against the seat in front of me and I had no leg room. There were essentially no rows. If people wanted in or out, virtually the entire row had to get up and get out to let them in or out. It was stupid. I was so damn uncomfortable. But it was a nice night for baseball. The Orioles were taking on Toronto. Unfortunately, it was a dull game and Gretchen and I left with Baltimore up 1-0 in the top of the ninth inning. Surprisingly, we found out later, Toronto hit a homer to tie it up and Baltimore finally won it in the 12th inning. So we started looking for our car. And we couldn’t find it. It was horrible. We walked those streets for miles and I got terrible blisters on the bottoms of my feet and my shins hurt and we couldn’t find my car anywhere we went. We stopped and asked for directions, but after more than an hour of this and after having covered seemingly every street within miles, we couldn’t find that little back alley parking spot. We started getting really terrified. We were in a big, strange city late at night with, frankly, gangs of possible thugs wandering around doing who knows what. We were really worried. Just as Gretchen was about to call the police, we found a building she recognized and went in that direction. We found another. Finally, I spotted the alley and our car and we headed for it in great relief. We were pretty panicked by then. It felt great to get in that car! We finally got out of there, made it back to the hotel, and hit the bar where I slammed some tequila shots and Gretchen had some Southern Comfort. Boy, what a day!

Sunday was Gretchen’s birthday party, the reason for the trip. It was her 50th, which is big, so we had invited family and friends to her parents’ house and she was pretty excited. On our way, we stopped to pick up the gluten free birthday cake I had ordered last month. Thankfully it was ready and it turned out great. It was really good. We got to her parents’ and chatted before people started arriving. Her parents laid out a spread and we toasted Gretchen with champagne. There were people there we hadn’t seen since our wedding last year, so it was nice to see everyone. Gretchen opened presents and she got quite a haul. She did well. Heh. The party lasted from about 1 til about 7 or later, so when we got back to the hotel, we were kind of tuckered out from the day. That didn’t stop us from hitting the bar, of course.

Monday we went to Annapolis with her parents. On the way, we passed the NSA and I was SO very excited. I wanted to go tour their museum — they actually have a museum — but we didn’t have time. Oh well. Annapolis was pretty cool. I had wanted to go on a tour of the Naval Academy, but because of my blisters, we couldn’t do it — I couldn’t walk far. Downtown was old and historic and we enjoyed wandering around. We ate lunch at Carrol’s Creek Cafe, which wasn’t too bad. We had a bizarre old server who entertained us. We went back to our hotel in the afternoon and although we were supposed to stay another night there, Gretchen and I decided to head out early because it was supposed to rain all day Tuesday and get colder and we didn’t want to drive far in that weather. We went a different way this time, without that much traffic, thank goodness.

We drove further than we intended, about six hours all told. We spent the night in a Holiday Inn Express in Salem VA, right outside Roanoke. It was a great hotel room! We were really impressed. It was a king size suite and it was huge. All that room. Unfortunately, the bed was too hard for me, so I woke up with a sore back. Oh well. The breakfast was great though. They had a pancake machine that made great pancakes in two minutes. I love pancakes, so I was elated. They had lots of room, many tables, unlike many hotels, and a lot to choose from. We felt like it was a good deal.

We left Salem Tuesday morning about 9. And it did start to rain. Visibility was pretty poor for a good part of the way, with poor Gretchen driving, and shockingly, 50 miles east of Knoxville, it started snowing!!! It was 84 just two days before, and even when we started out that morning, it was 65 there in the mountains. And now here it was snowing. Crazy. Gretchen drove through the snow, but at some point we had to stop for gas and I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. It was COLD gassing up the car! We finally made it home after about six hours or so. Our cat Henry was glad to see us and purred all night. We had lots of mail. My mom had gotten our mail and fed Henry each day, which was nice of her. She’s about ready to move back up to Knoxville in a couple of weeks, so we won’t have her to do that for us anymore. Don’t know what we’ll do the next time we have to travel….

Well, that’s it. It was a good, but exhausting trip. Unfortunately, Gretchen — and maybe me too — came down with something and has been sick ever since. Hopefully we’ll both improve quickly. It was nice to see Gretchen’s old stomping grounds as well as family and friends. Maybe we’ll make it back sooner next time. Sorry I didn’t post pics. I reserve the right to do so in the future. Heh.

6 Responses to “Baltimore Trip”

  1. dweezer19 said

    Well Scott that sounds like an amazing trip! I did see and comment on the photo you posted on g+ for Gretchen’s birthday. What an adventure, except for the almost not finding your car part. Yikes. Those are scary events. Everything else sounded really great though. You got lots in there and saw so many friends. I am so sorry you guys are sick though. Add some airborne to your regimen. It really dos help. Be well soon. Oh, and I love Annapolis too. Had a chance to visit so many years ago when my ex attended nuclear school up there. Just a beautiful place, there in the harbor town. Thanks for sharing your journey with us.

    Like

    • Thanks for your comment. We would have liked to stay longer, but work didn’t permit it.

      It was scary. Very scary. I thought we’d be walking around at 3 AM, just waiting to be assaulted.

      Nuclear school? That sounds interesting. It is beautiful, yes.

      Cheers!

      Like

  2. It was a great time. The weather was perfect and we had an amazing time with family and friends. Maryland is such a nice state.

    Like

  3. I left a comment on Gretchen’s site…but wanted to comment here, too!
    Other than having to look for your car (how scary!), I’m glad everything else was so wonderful for her birthday celebration! 🙂 What great memories you made! 🙂
    I think now you need a vacation to recover from the vacation!
    HUGS and Happy Easter to both of you!
    Carolyn 🙂

    Like

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