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Heading North

Well, heading North was my intent at least.  To be entirely honest, I left Heathrow without any clue whatsoever as to where I was going.  Without GPS I was left lost and alone in a foreign land where almost nobody spoke English.  Okay, they all spoke English, but they refer to soccer as football over there so things could go haywire in an instead if I didn’t watch out.

As I departed the airport I fell back on my oft used technique to get myself out of 20150617_114127any jam – follow the crowd.  It works maybe 74% of the time.  Wherever the most amount of cars seem to be heading – I will head there too. At the very least you should end up somewhere safe (and maybe fun).  Amazingly enough the strategy worked as I got out of Heathrow and ended up heading North on the Msomething…….M1? I think that was it….

Regardless I was on my way!

Now, as I mentioned in my earlier post, that was just the beginning of my disastrous trip over to the UK.  I actually reached Huntingdon fairly easily, but from there I spent about 3 hours driving around in circles trying to find the Marriott.  And Huntingdon is not that big.

So, you may be wondering, “Ronniedigital, what was your first impression of Huntingdon?”

It was something like, “holy Mary-Mother-of-God, these roads, what’s wrong with these roads?  They’re clearly one way, but cars are going both ways……Why are cars parked in so many different directions?  Why are they parked in the street on a road that is not wide enough for two cars as it is?  Why is this car so effing big?  Oh, how cute, a fox.  Is it British?  I bet it is. Shit this road is too small.  I need a smaller car!!!  WWJD!”20150617_133628

After three hours of this and two stops at a Tesco, multiple stops to ask for directions, and having passed some locations up to 48 times I finally made it to the Marriott (by accident).  I also ran a red light at one point, and entered almost every roundabout in the wrong lane.

Yeah, that sums it up.  A disaster.

But wait, there’s more.  After my extremely exhausting trip I went to check into the Marriott and just as I arrive the power goes off.  This delays the check-in process slightly, but soon enough I was up and sleeping in my room.

Or so it seemed.  😦

About an hour into my stay someone entered my room using THEIR key car and quickly snuck out after realizing the room was occupied.  Although this was a bit unsettling, I was too tired to bother with details, and went back to trying to nap.  After about another hour a nice man in a suit also entered and came in far enough to say hello and apologize for interrupting my nap.  I then went downstairs and asked the front desk to cease and desist from sending strangers into my room.  Apparently due to the power outage they couldn’t log the key card in, or something like that, and decided the best tactic was to have everyone just check in to my room.

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I’m back!

I am now back in Syracuse after finally departing the UK after a little over ninety 90 days.  I have actually been back for almost two weeks to be honest, but I’ve just now managed to stop crying long enough to actually recount the experience.

I suppose I will start by outlining my arrival in the UK.  The trip started out terribly as my flight was delayed for 749 hours.  Things would soon look up though20150620_151042 when I realized that on my flight from Newark to Heathrow I would be sitting between an elderly married couple who refused to switch seats with me.

Now, this was quite bizarre, but ultimately turned out to be fine as the people were lovely.  They somehow managed to not annoy me at all even when they felt the need to talk to each other.  The wife spent a lot of time watching Disney films, while her husband read a bit, and then watched a Monty Python film and occasionally burst out in laughter.  It was fairly adorable.

I slept off and on throughout the trip, but far less than I expected and did manage to watch the movie ‘Gone Girl,’ which I thought would be phenomenal, but turned out to be quite awful.  Okay, seriously awful.

Delta’s in-flight service was superb though with a tiny little touch-screen television featuring 8,497 different viewing options.  And if those viewing options aren’t enough you could entertain yourself by watching people unfamiliar with touch-screen technology freak the eff out on the tiny screen when it was non-responsive at times.

After my arrival I then headed out to meet up with my mortal enemy (although this was unbeknownst to me at the time) – EUROPCAR!

Europcar is National Car Rental – but not really.  They are to National what Bizarro Superman is to Superman.  They’re just evil.  Pure evil.  Oddly, National SFchallenge07fwas my favorite rental car agency previously because of their policy of letting you pick out your own car, but going forward I will be avoiding them at all costs as well.  Guilty by association I guess….

As an introduction, let me outline Europcar’s customer service policy.  It pretty much seems to be………fuck you.

I would guess they have two main instructions for new employees.  First, make sure you’re extremely difficult, and tell a tiny lie or two if possible.  Second, finish off every interaction with a big metaphorical fuck you to the customer.  That sums up my experience.

So, I arrive at Europcar and they immediately tell me that the price I had reserved the car for was for a manual transmission. I try to explain to them that this is nonsense because I cannot drive a manual (and therefore have no need for one), but after growing tired of arguing and wanting to get the heck out of Heathrow, I give in.  Having been awake for about 44 out of the last 48 hours and now needing to drive three hours to Huntingdon, on the wrong side of the road mind you, I figure it seems best to live to fight another day.

Europcar then asserts that there are almost ZERO automatic cars in the lot as everyone desires this new magical form of transmission.  I’m not sure why they keep emphasizing this 20150618_174951other than to make it known that they will not be honoring the price I actually rented the car for.  Okay, fine, but I still need a car – so let’s goooooooo.

Note:  Oddly, after walking through the lot for a bit I think I discovered approximately 847 automatic transmission cars so I have no idea what the hell they were talking about.  I saw maybe 10 manuals.  Maybe they segregate them….I don’t know.  Segregation is wrong though.

After initially putting me in for an Alfa Romeo (is that a real brand any more?) they ultimately give me a VW Passat.  After getting to the car and sitting in it and noticing that it is absolutely gigantic I go back in and ask for a smaller car.  We then search through the 847 other automatics in the parking lot and each time I settle on one they cannot find the keys to the car.  It’s simply bizarre.  You rent cars – how are you losing the keys to every car in the lot?  I’m almost dying at this point as most of the time they seem focused on renting me a giant SUV, and since I’ve never driven in the UK, I’m trying to sway them toward something smaller.  Like an enclosed moped or something akin to that.

Finally, after about an hour, and with it now raining, they finally force me to take some strange looking Mercedes that resembles a hyped-up super-awesome version of a Nissan Versa.  I agree to take the too-big-for-me car because it has GPS that comes standard and most of the others do not.  I figure this will come in handy as I have no idea where I’m going20150620_125941.

Well, as I drive out the parking lot I ask the attendant what’s up because the GPS isn’t turning on.  Like all Europcar employees he refers back to his training and says that the SD Card (or chip, or whatever chip allows the GPS to function) was probably stolen because they’re always being stolen and waves me on with what I would call the patented Europcar fuck you.

Note:  Whilst I’m talking about cars I would like to point out that Honda Accord in the UK looks exactly like an Acura!  Or, sometimes if I’m not mistaken, they look like an Accord in the front, but an Acura in the back.  Weird.

Coming up next:  My drive to Huntingdon!

Welcome back again!

You may be asking yourself a question right now, and that question is more than likely, “did the Bronx Zoo ever have people in their cages as an exhibit you could visit?”  Well, great question, and the answer is YES, yes they did!

http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/03/opinions/newkirk-bronx-zoo-man-cage/index.html

Poor Ota Benga.

Okay, so that may not be the question you were asking right at the moment.  The question you are probably asking, orUK should be asking, is…….”what the fuck is this?  A new post?  Where you been RonnieDigital?  Okay, that’s like eight questions, but you get the point.

Well, my point is – I am here to say sayonnara USA!  RonnieDigital is leaving the United States of America for greener pastures!  Or at least cloudier skies.  For the next 92 days I will be living it up in the United Kingdom of America!  Or the UKA for short…..Or as Deb calls it, “the place where all the good books come from.”  Or as I call it, “that place that gave us ‘Top Gear’ and toaster ovens.”

Or as my mom calls it, “the land of my overlords.” (Note: She’s Canadian)

Be afraid United Kingdom’ians…..be very afraid.

Atlanta

The next stop on my tour of the country was Atlanta.  Atlanta is perhaps best known for being in Georgia, and, ummm, I think that’s about it.  Peaches, maybe??  I always thought Georgia was one of those states that never gets cold – it isn’t.  It was cold.  Very cold.  And by very cold I mean like 40 degrees.  I was guessing it was going to be about 80.

As a result, I did not bring the proper attire to deal with the frigid Buildingtemperatures.  I also did not have the necessary clothes for scraping off my car when I returned to Syracuse and almost froze to death in the airport parking lot.  It did not help that I was wearing Chuck Taylor’s and stepped in a puddle prior to having to stand in the snow brushing my car off for 15 minutes…..Luckily I have two scrapers and was able to cut down the time spent scraping considerably.

So, what did I think of Atlanta?  Undecided.  Driving was less difficult than I figured it would be, but I never really got a feel for the city at all.  The city itself seemed clean, kind of small though and it feels very spread out.   Like one super-gigantic suburb.

I did find driving about was a tad strange, their on-ramps curve in all sorts of nonsensical directions and roads seem to criss-cross for no reason whatsoever.  It kind of just feels like a big clusterfuck no matter where you are – or where I was at least.  Since I had a rental car though, and I don’t care at all if I crash the aforementioned rental, it was pretty easy going for me.  The traffic admittedly seemed a tad insane, and once you Colonnadewere nearing the city it seemed like you were stuck at each light for about 45 minutes.  That was rather annoying.

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DC

I had my first visit to our nation’s capital this weekend.  I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I did figure at the very least I would get to see the White House and maybe some of the cast from ‘The West Wing.’  Honestly, the White House seemed a bit smaller than I thought it would be.  Otherwise, it was a pretty nice little city.BeFunky_ndsdull_3

The one thing nobody told me about DC though (not that I asked)  is that every single wrong turn you take feeds directly into Virginia.  I’m not sure why they want you to end up in Virginia so badly, but they do.  Not that there is anything wrong with Virginia, it’s just not where I want be.  Pretty much ever.

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St. Louis

My third vacation of the summer was to St. Louis!  Rather than telling you about all the awesome things that I did I have decided to instead show you through PICTURES!  From my camera – my camera that’s in my phone!!

Zooooo

First up on the trip was the zooooo!  I had already been to the St. Louis zoo, but since the zoo is free – as is virtually every single thing in St. Louis – I figured I would return to see if the animals remembered me.  They didn’t.  Anyway, this picture is showing not one, not two, but three giraffes!  It may look like there was no fence between myself and the man-eating beasts, but I can assure you that there was.

Arch2

My second stop was to the Gateway Arch.  The arch sits just on the outskirts of downtown, and it is said if you ArchPodwalk under it you will have magical powers bestowed upon you.

I have a natural distrust for magic, since my mom is Canadian, so I didn’t try to find out.  Anyway, what I didn’t know until I walked up to this magical half-oval was that you can actually go inside – there is a gift shop and everything.  Most notably, if you are willing to pay zero dollars you can take a ride in some space-agey pod thing (pictured to the right) and get lifted up to the top where you can see the entire city, and, if you have a pair of binoculars, you can even watch the Cardinals game.  Yes, someone was actually doing that.

Stop three took me to the Budweiser brewery.  Not that exciting, but you do get free beer at the end of the free tour – which, if youBud really, really, really like beer – is an amazing deal!  During the tour they show off the Clydesdale horses they keep on site, and walk you through the entire beer making process.  There are some escalators involved (Fun Fact: I love escalators) in the tour and they are absolutely one-hundred percent anti-crocs (those sandal things).  They hate them so much that they will not let you take the tour if you are wearing those ridiculous shoes.  I’m certain there is some special reason for that, but I will be damned if I know what it could be….

CardsMy fourth big event was a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game!  The most exciting part of this trip was that sitting about four rows in front of me and just to the left was the family that was directly in front of me on the Budweiser tour.  The odds of that happening has to be astoundingly low.  The baseball game was not free, but should have been considering it was 8 million degrees outside.  The Cardinals somehow managed to fall behind 7-0 in the top of the first inning and never recovered.  Sorry Cardinals – I did buy a Cardinals hat though.  Again, not free – but I love to support local businesses.

The fifth and final significant event was my trip down the St. Louis walk of fame.  The walk featured all sorts of legends from Vincent Pricesports, entertainment and everything in between.  I saw a star for famous wife-beater Ike Turner, famed magician turned actor Vincent Price, and the man whom portrayed Egon in the film ‘Ghostbusters’ – Harold ‘effing’ Ramis!  Chuck Berry seemed to be the biggest star as he had both a star and a statue.

Here are some other random photos from the trip.  Baywash – best name I’ve ever seen for a car wash.  ‘Kings Beauty Supplies and Tobacco’ because those two things always go together.  The giant polar bear that tried to stop westward expansion, and finally Cardinals stadium pictured from the Arch.  The rest speak for themselves – I hope.

KingsMuseumBaywashArch1cards1 sunset bud1 penguin terrifying rental tour

North Carolina

Next up on my great North American Summer 2013 tour was North Carolina – home of cheap cigarettes, REALLY cheap cigarettes, lots of woods, and ummm……not much else!Drive

Just kidding North Carolina – you were fantastic.  The drive however, was not.  It’s a fairly long drive – about 10 hours – and it seems like you spend most of that time driving through mountains.  I suppose it is scenic, but after about four hours of it you really just want to put Pennsylvania in your rear view mirror (literally) and never see it again.

leavingThis trip was actually both business and pleasure.  The business part was to help my sister pack up her stuff for her big return to New York, and the pleasure was visiting some friends from Iowa City.

First, the business.  The business portion of the trip involved me traveling down to Cary, North Carolina to throw out 9,000 lbs. of garbage for my sister, and then load up my car with more boxes than any car should ever have stacked inside.  The taking out of the garbage was an interesting adventure as virtually every trip down to the dumpster led to me getting lectured by some very sweet elderly lady about how wasteful I was.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her it wasn’t mine, and eventually I started trying to make covert trips to the dumpster avoid her chastising me.

The pleasure part was just hanging out, eating some chicken and waffles (a first for me), drinking a bit, and heading into Chapel Hill to take a look at where the Tar Heels and Dukies hang out.  I figure since Syracuse is moving to the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) it might be Chik Waffleshelpful to immerse myself in their culture for a day or two.  Always know your enemy!

So, as usual, I have a few pictures below so you can feel the fun I was having on my road trip.  The first set is some shack that we passed in the Ozark Mountains (i’m not sure what mountains we were in to be honest, but they were high, and pretty much anytime I go up a hill I suspect I may be in the Ozarks).  I put up three pictures just to show how the shack goes from fairly creepy, to downright creepy, to horrifying as the pictures change from color to black & white.

The next picture is of some butterflies I saw – not a big deal – except there were billions of them in the tree.  It was Drawstrange.  Next up I have a shot of  my crayon sketches I drew on the place-mats at the chicken & waffles place.   I have another pic of a random cat I saw outside who befriended me in Durham, NC, and a pic of the reading material I caught Deb browsing while we were at a rest stop.  Shame on you Deb – but well done choosing ‘BJ Babes’ – you always go for the one that includes the free DVD!  Always.  All the other shots are random shots from the car, and one of the parking lot outside of my sister’s apartment

Enjoy.

moutains moutains1 moutains2

Cat Butterflies photo Niks place

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