We made God laugh

Boston Travel Blog

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One of the hard and fast Kretzer Rules of Travel is “If a city has a subway system, use it” This is because it will suck to try drive yourself around. I know this. I have learned this the hard way in Washington DC, and a little bit in Chicago. I have been to Boston before, and used the subway. It was great. I was prepared to use the Boston subway system this time. I purposefully booked a hotel that was reasonably close to a subway station. But, somehow it went horribly wrong.


Flashback to 4 PM, Friday, October 17, 2009, just a few short hours ago. Margo and I had left Plymouth, jumped on Highway 3, and were on our way to the Boston suburb of Revere. The drive to Revere was mostly uneventful. We ran into a little traffic when we reached Boston, but drove through it to the north side of the metro area and found our hotel. It was now about 5 PM, and close enough to dinner time where we figured we would like to find something to eat. After dumping everything in our room, we got back into our car and God started to laugh.


Did you ever hear the expression “If you want to make God laugh, tell him you have a plan”. When I travel I have a plan. I know what I want to see, where it is, how to get there, how long it should take to see that something, and what should happen when I am there. I have my hotels and rental cars booked in advance. I have Mapquested and printed directions. I have a printed itinerary. I have printed excerpts from websites. I have phone numbers preprogrammed into my cell phone.  I have all of this in a book, with tabbed dividers. Cue the laughter.


I opened my book and proceeded to tell Margo how to get from Revere to the subway station a few miles away, that would carry us to the virtual doorstep of our tour operator. I was so looking forward to this tour. I had seen most of what they were going to show us, during the daylight hours, on a self guided tour. Now we would go at night, with the weather cooperating, and with knowledgeable and entertaining guides. We turned out of the hotel and immediately the directions started to make no sense. We should have been going one way, but we were going 90 degrees off. We got onto the highway and not so soon realized we were not on the right road. Why did my directions not work!! I had a map, but it was not detailed enough. After 10 minutes of travel we pulled into a convenience store and I bought a better map, and talked to the store clerk. Her command of English was better than my command of her native tongue, but she still got me pointed in the right general direction. After another 15 minutes things started to make sense again, based on my directions. Ten minutes later we should have arrived. We hadn’t. I noticed that we passed by our rental car company’s lot. I remember thinking, “I’m sure it is around here somewhere”. It wasn’t, so we turned around and retraced our steps. After another 15 minutes we were heading on Highway 1A South towards Boston. We had given up on finding the subway station. I was ticked. How could my directions have been so far off? Mapquest had never failed me. Never.


15 minutes later we got close to Boston, and I was still doing a combination of stewing over what went wrong and trying to make sure we wouldn’t get lost. Something kept tapping me on the shoulder and saying “Rental Car Company. Rental Car Company” For most of the last half hour I had been telling the little voice to shut up. Now, grabbed my book and looked really close at the directions and everything was clear. Mapquest had worked just fine. The directions I was using were to take me to the Rental Car Company to return our car in the morning. A combination of anger, embarrassment, and self-loathing hit me. Those three are not conducive to a good mood. I told Margo what went wrong, and she shrugged it off, and asked where she was supposed to turn.


I mentioned at the start of this flashback that it was now Friday evening. The time is about 6 PM now and it is the heart of rush hour. I told Margo to take this next exit and God started rolling on the floor. Of course the exit was wrong. But, getting back onto the highway turned out to be next to impossible. To start with there are just not that many on ramps to I-90. They are not every mile or so. We tried for half an hour, before we stumbled onto Commonwealth Ave heading east. By now, we were both unbelievable frustrated. We could not even get going west. Everything seemed to conspire against us. One Ways going the wrong way. Streets closed for construction. Traffic too heavy to make a lane change. And streets blocked off for one event or another.


I finally told Margo just stay on Commonwealth and keep going east. I liked this for two reasons. The first is that we were getting out of the maze of one-ways, closed streets, and the sheer horror of Friday night downtown traffic. The second is that we should be able to find a subway stop.


I finally was able to figure out that the Kenmore Stop on the Green Line was at Commonwealth and Brookline. We pulled in a parking lot at about 7:10 or so. Our tour was 8 PM, and was meeting at the Marriot Long Wharf at State St and Atlantic. It was going to take us about 20-30 minutes, and a transfer to the Blue Line to get there. We had not eaten yet and I was getting concerned. I would be willing to skip dinner and find something later. The tour would be over at 9:30 or so. But, I wasn’t willing to inflict that on Margo. But, I was hoping that we could find a street vendor or something else quick on the way. I had not yet given up hope.


The subway trip was uneventful, just as I had hoped it would be if we had left from Revere, two hours ago. We made our transfer at Government Center Station and got off at the Aquarium stop, just as I had originally planned. But, now instead of it being 6 PM, it was after 7:30 PM. We got up to street level and looked around. It was then that I decided it was hopeless. There was no way we would be able to find something to eat and then find where we were supposed to meet our group in the 20 minutes we had left. All we would do was make a bad situation worse. So we found our tour and I informed that they wouldn’t be making it. The tour was sold out, so some lucky souls would enjoy that otherwise wouldn’t. For some reason that did not give me any pleasure. My tickets were also non-refundable. Oh, well. Maybe we could get some shopping in.


We decided to go to the Faneuil Hall Marketplace to find something to eat, and maybe do some shopping. We were both starving. We found a directory and decided to do the tourist thing and eat at Cheers. Margo and I had eaten at the Bull and Finch when we were in Boston eight years ago. We figured we may as well check out the new place. The food was good. Nothing special, but it did have a good atmosphere. By the time we were finished eating I was feeling much better. The two beers I had probably had something to do with that.


Once we finished we wandered around the Marketplace, but most everything was closed or closing. So, as we had had another long day and we were flying home tomorrow, we decided to retrace out tracks back to Brookline and head home. I was pretty concerned about getting home, based on the nightmare it took to get to the Waterfront area. But, it worked out reasonably well. I seem to remember getting on to Massachusetts and I think we ended up getting onto I-90 via Cambridge, but once on the turnpike we were golden. Traffic had calmed down some and we made it back to Revere in about 30 minutes.


Our adventure was over for the day. Tomorrow we would fly home. The one good thing about getting lost in downtown Boston was getting to travel through the Ted Williams Tunnel and to drive across the Leonard P. Zakim-Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge. It isn’t often you run across a major piece of roadwork named after a baseball player. So that we kind of neat to do that. The people of Boston must have a nickname for the bridge, but we didn’t have anytime to find that out. It is an interesting looking piece of architecture. I only wish we would have been in a picture taking mood. But, alas, tonight we took no pictures. The ones in Plymouth were the last of our trip. I’ll do better next time.

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photo by: bubu932