South of the (North Carolina) Border: A Photo Essay

I would have probably ignored all the billboards. One tourist trap is the same as another, right? But Roadside America encouraged me to stop. And if I trust anything, it’s an iPhone app about unusual places of the United States.

It was dark and rainy and the ferris wheel was closed but still had a haunting beauty. The stores with their miles of product bins are always open. I considered staying at the truck stop for the night, but in the end, I knew my time there couldn’t last.

South of the Border Rides

South of the Border

south of the border

south of the border steakhouse

south of the border

South of the Border

south of the border

Oversize Parking at the Baltimore Airport Amtrak Station (BWI)

OK. I know a few things about search engine optimization, but this isn’t that kind of site. Whether these posts rank for anything in search engines is really beside the point. Except this post.

I did all kinds of searches to try and figure out where an RV might park at the Baltimore airport Amtrak station and got no answers. And then I went there, and continued to get no answers. Then I figured it out myself.

So if you’re looking for information on where to park your RV at BWI, read on for my story. Learn from my very frustrating experience. Feel the joy I felt when I finally discovered the answer.

If you’re just reading this blog because you’re incredulous that I’m still randomly wandering the country, well, you can read on too.

I was staying at a KOA in Maryland while doing some work in Washington DC (more on all of that in a later post) and I needed to head up to Manhattan for a few days. There are certainly no campgrounds or RV parks anywhere near Manhattan and I had no desire to drive the Roadtrek through New York City, even if I could get valet parking at the hotel. I decided to take the Amtrak Acela from Baltimore (BWI is super close to the KOA) and leave the RV parked there while I was gone.

I used to work at Google. In search. I have given training classes on advanced searching techniques. And yet even after pulling out all the tricks, I found nothing on where I might park a 9 foot tall vehicle at the Baltimore airport Amtrak station. I figured there must be some place to park, so I decided to just get there really early. Worst case, I should be able to park in an open airport lot, right?

First, I noticed that while the airport is close-ish, it’s not super close to the Amtrak station. You probably wouldn’t want to park there and walk. It’s probably 2 miles away, and the non-garage lots are even further.

I pulled up to the station to discover two garages: one with an 8′ 2″ height, the other with a 6′ 8″ height. I never in my life paid attention to garage heights before I got the Roadtrek, but 6′ 8″ seems short, right? I pulled into a 15 minute parking space out front and went into the information desk.

“Where do oversize vehicles park?” I inquired. Sweetly. The guy looked at me. “No idea.” And went back to his paperwork. Really? That’s it?

I wandered around in the garage until I found an attendant. Surely he could direct me. “No idea.” Really? Again? No one has ever needed to park here with a tall vehicle of any kind? He thought about it. I could try the rental car lot? But he really didn’t know if they’d let me park there. The only place he thought might work was long term airport parking. It was not close by. Once I parked, I could catch a shuttle to the airport. And from there find a shuttle back to the train station. (With my luggage.)

That seemed really convoluted. Maybe I could get an Uber from the long term lot to the station? I set off looking for this promised long term lot. I couldn’t find it. I went around the airport loop and saw lots of garages and even one sign for long term parking, but it possibly was a mythical dream.

But then. I saw the Park ‘N Fly lot. The Park ‘N Fly lot is wonderfully non-garage like. Your vehicle can be as tall as you want it to be. And they have a shuttle that will take you right to the train station. I didn’t know about that last part. I got on the shuttle that was already going to the airport. He said he’d drop me after but then was worried I was running late. He barreled around corners and gunned it on the straightaways. I made it with plenty of time to spare.

Next time, he said, just tell the parking attendant you’re going to Amtrak, and they’ll have a shuttle take you right there. He handed me a card. Just call us when you get back and we’ll come right over and pick you up. And that’s exactly what happened.

(Dear Park ‘N Fly web site manager: you should really add the whole Amtrak thing to your web site.)

So there you have it. Go right to the BWI Park ‘N Fly, tell them you’re taking Amtrak, and enjoy a seamless experience. For only $7 a day. Just don’t ask for information at the information desk.

Laundry at 7pm in Fall: A Vignette

I’m surrounded by darkness. I could be lost in the wilderness, surrounded by anything. My flashlight shows only the ground in front of me.

ACK WHAT’S THAT IT’S THE BLAIR WITCH COMING TO GET ME!

Oh, it’s a guy walking his very tiny dog.

In the blackness, all I see are shapes, monsters on all sides, waiting to pounce.  Oh wait. As I get closer, I can see a fake palm tree made out of lights. That’s a row of class A RVs. Never mind.

I trudge on, my light bouncing off of the trees, with their long spindly arms, assuredly full of spiders. I hear voices and shouts. Fire crackles. A sociopathic motorcycle gang of serial killers! I edge closer. I guess it’s just a family making smores beside their tent.

Finally, finally, I arrive at the laundry room. I’ve made it. But however will I make it back, no way to defend myself in the dark, my hands full with the laundry bag and the flashlight and maybe a bag of Doritos from the little store?

We All Want To Move to Hudson, Ohio

If you’re ever been on a Hollywood studio lot, like maybe you’ve done one of those Universal Studios tours, or you’re a famous actor, or like me, you once went to a party at the Paramount lot, for fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer who met online, then you’ve seen the quintessential small American town from every movie and TV show ever. And maybe you think, why did someone go through all the expense to build this fake town when a million real towns just like this exist everywhere? Wouldn’t a real town be more convincing, and also cheaper?

I have now learned the answer to this question. The quintessential small American town does not exist. Oh sure, when you exit the Interstates and drive down the narrow roads to real America, you’ll come upon plenty of small towns. With strip malls, Walmarts, and the occasional Hardee’s. I rely extensively on Walmart to provide my RV toilet paper needs and frequent overnight accommodations, so I’m not complaining exactly. But that’s a different kind of movie.

Remember that scene from Say Anything where John Cusack goes down to the Gas ‘N Sip and seeks out the wisdom of the guys who hang out there on a Saturday night? it’s kind of that like.

Sometimes, you do come upon a town square with maybe a statue of the founder and quaint buildings all facing in. But when you look a bit closer, you mostly see boarded up windows and closed signs.

Downtown

So you understand that when I came upon Sandusky, it was proof that the world wasn’t built on lies after all.

And then I got to Hudson.

I came to Hudson accidentally. I was in Ohio for Sandusky. After leaving there, I was driving along the turnpike towards Washington DC, the next scheduled stop on my calendar. I started getting a little hungry.

I noticed a KOA wasn’t too far away, so I figured I’d stop there for the night and find something nearby to eat. (It was a nice KOA, although as you can see, my site wasn’t quite level. And while the photo shows clear blue skies, it rained later, which made the unhooking process in the grass a little muddy.)

Hudson OH KOA

Yelp told me a town with highly starred restaurants was nearby, so off to Hudson I went.

Hudson OH

Hudson is quite possibly the platonic ideal of a small American town. Hollywood should shoot every movie here. It’s beautiful. And tranquil. The people are suspiciously friendly.

I had dinner at the bar of a great restaurant called Downtown 140. Everyone agreed their town was wonderful, although no one could really pinpoint how that came to be. Hudson only has 20,000 people in it and isn’t super close to any large cities (it’s about 20 minutes north of Akron, but at a population of around 200,000, it’s not huge either). The bartender told me to stop back on my way back through to update them on my trip.

And then there was the library.

Yes, they were having a lecture on bitcoins. And yes, they had an amazing garden patio. Free wifi. An entrepreneurship center. Comfy chairs. Outlets. A cafe right in the middle of the library with couches and coffee. I just… might have to move here.

As I was sitting in a coffee shop later, I family came in. They were house hunting. They drove through the town one day and liked it so much, they decided to move.

That’s what happens when you come to Hudson.