Tuesday, August 10, 2010

On the Road and at the Shore

  We drove from Iowa to New Jersey over the weekend. Except for my getting a speeding ticket in Pennsylvania, it was fairly uneventful and was even a very quick trip thanks to not getting stuck driving through Chicago for the first time ever. This is my first vacation in 3 years. I did take a week off last August to accompany Matt to the tournament of HS chess champions in Indianapolis and also play in the US Open, but I only left the hotel for 1 day to see the Indy 500 racetrack, so I don’t count that as a vacation. Kathy and Matt have gone coast to coast in the last week after spending 5 nights in Irvine, CA for this years’ HS champion tournament (Matt had a great tournament with some national attention), having a 3 night layover in Marshalltown to allow Kathy to clean up from my Mr. Mom role and pack for the drive, and driving to New Jersey this weekend.   Going on vacation is a good way to see how valuable you are at your job. If some emergency comes up that no one can handle and you can’t be contacted, your bosses will be ticked off. If no one knows you were even gone, the wrong boss will start wondering if you are needed at all. I hope that there will be small amount of pain at work from my absence, but not too much. My boss was on vacation for the last month and I had to make a demo web site for my boss’s boss late last week, so my work vibe will probably be linked to the success of the demo.
I wore my cap backwards so I'd fit in, but I should have left the Iowa T-Shirt at home.

  So far, the vacation has gone well. Since the hotels at the beach are mostly high priced fleabags filled with loud parties all night, we have stayed at the Holiday Inn in nearby Tom’s River. They put us in a smoking room, but the room doesn’t smell like smoke so it is no big deal. I’ve stayed in ‘non-smoking’ rooms that reeked of smoke and when I complained, I was told that the room was just switched to a non-smoking room. What a coincidence. When we got to our room, we saw a tiny refrigerator sitting in the hallway, Kathy asked the front desk if we could have one, and we have a complimentary refrigerator for the week. The Holiday Inn seems to be much better run this year. In 2005, the room we were in reeked of urine. When we called the front desk, they didn’t seem too surprised and sent up a guy to spray the air-conditioning vent with some sort of super Febreze. What struck me was that everyone was so casual about the problem. It must have been a commonplace situation.   The beach was just as nice as I remember it. There are a few things I feel as if I could sit and watch forever and the waves rolling in from the Atlantic Ocean is one of them along with watching the people at Sub City make subs during lunch hour and standing in New York watching the live freak show pass by. There are a lot of carnival games and rides on the boardwalk. I got myself a little Yankee basketball and also won a towel from the New Jersey National Guard for doing 35 pushups. I wanted to do 54 and get the t-shirt, but I went too fast and hit the wall. They grade you on age, but the chart stops at 41. I might have been able to get the t-shirt if they had a chart for 49 year olds, but I’ll give it another go on Friday in the morning before I wear myself out in the ocean.

Notice the poor form of the guy on the left and how fired up the other old guy at the end of the video got. He looks like he's ready to take the challenge also.
I was 20 pushups short of getting the T-shirt, but at least I got the towel and not the weenie prize, which was a little bottle of National Guard hand sanitizier.

  While gas is $2.50 in New Jersey, Marlboro cigarettes go for $7.95 for a pack and $79.22 for a carton! They are $4.95 in Iowa. This is all state taxes, of course. It is a vicious cycle. The states raise taxes on cigarettes because the majority of people don’t mind picking on the filthy smokers. But the state governments budget the cigarette tax money based on current sales, people cut back on their smoking (or get their fix from illegal cigarettes from North Carolina), and the state has to raise the cigarette taxes again to recoup their money. If cigarettes are so bad, the states should just outlaw them, but they are addicted to the tax money just like the smokers are addicted to their cigarettes.   When I was a kid, I used to hear that Americans travelling behind the Iron Curtain would give sticks of chewing gum to the locals instead of tips because chewing gum was such a delicacy. I wonder if soon foreigners will be giving out Marlboro’s as tips in America.
I feel like a different person when I'm in New Jersey.

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