Don't Even Go There—Travel Writing for the Rest of Us

Even if the world is your oyster, you can still chip a tooth on its shell. While travel magazines feature exotic locales of breathtaking beauty, we expose sites so depressing that no traveler this side of Edgar Allan Poe would venture there without a tub-load of tranquilizers. Take Las Vegas (please) and the $5.99 all-you-can-eat buffet line at Sam’s Town. That's the world we explore at Don’t Even Go There.

On this site, we tell of places we’ve visited but wish we hadn’t. We reveal vacation plans gone awry and relate horror stories from the road best abandoned. These true stories reflect where we’ve chosen to go. We only have ourselves to blame. We rarely needed to exaggerate—the truth really is stranger than a Dan Brown novel.

Don’t Even Go There: travel tips for those of us who aren’t escorted by security guards, pampered by wealthy benefactors, or provided a generous per diem. This blog is for seasoned travelers and armchair tourists who want the real world first-hand and head-on, with all its drama, horror, and humor. You’ll laugh at us, cry with us, and decide to stay home more often.

22 February 2010

Quote of the Month

Welcome to a blog post from the road. We are in the Boston area, where the cold is as fierce as the traffic. The quote this month involves this provincial backwater. We hope you enjoy it and continue to return again for more stories about places to avoid throughout this great world of ours.
"Boston is known for its baked beans, which has become the butt of many jokes (pun intended, unfortunately). One consequence of eating baked beans has gone largely unnoticed. Until now. Whenever we eat baked beans, we become the most deadly contributors to global warming in the room. And unlike the Watergate scandal, it's not something easily covered up."

-Mark Bloom & Jason Scholder (2010)

15 February 2010

Roadkill to Go

Days before we undertake another road trip (this one by car to New England), we thought we’d share the following story of advice . . . if for no other reason than to remind ourselves what we have to look forward to. This next trip is going to be a multi-day drive, so anything can happen, but it’s OK: we’ll be wearing clean underwear. Wish us luck and look for the next story in a couple weeks. —MB & JS

Food always presents a challenge when we travel. Sometimes, we have the time and foresight to pack a meal or two to take with us. Sometimes, we have to sacrifice our health to the Gods of Fast Food. Sometimes, we can’t find anything anywhere, and roadkill starts to look appetizing. The truth is, experience has taught us that how we travel has a lot to do with how well we eat.

Airline food has become passable, now that we’re paying separately for it. But airport food is still overpriced and appalling. Picture your favorite sandwich left under a heat lamp or in a semi-refrigerated bin for fourteen hours. On first bite, you can tell there’s no difference in consistency between the bread and its contents.

Train terminals, at least in other countries, often feature one good restaurant. In the US, however, train stations rarely have any food at all, unless you consider donuts as a separate food group, like some Americans we know. Besides, who takes the train in the US anymore?

Then there are bus stations. Hmmm. Suddenly, the candy bar in the vending machine looks like a good bet. Take it from us: If you leave the driving to someone else, you’re throwing away any chance of a good meal as well.

People with recreational vehicles (a group that doesn’t include us) can cook whatever and wherever they like because they’ve taken the kitchen with them. Of course, it costs extra to haul all those pots and pans around. Those who camp when they travel can grill something easily enough over a toasty campfire . . . as long as the weather cooperates.

If, like us most of the time, all you have are four wheels and a seat, you’re probably driving a short distance (meaning less than a day’s drive). Food becomes less important when it’s only one meal you have to worry about. Take a snack or stop for a quick bite.

When we’re in for a long haul, however, whether traveling by car or by thumb, finding good food is the trip’s Holy Grail, something to actually write home about. But it’s not easy. Roadside diners serve greasy slop to patrons who don’t want to linger. Truck stops at least offer variety—although take our advice and avoid any buffet you see, especially if it’s in Las Vegas.

When you take a long car trip, make sure your vehicle is comfortable and—most importantly—larger than you are.

For the long-haulers just trying to get from Point A to Point B without even taking in the sights along the way, we recommend frequent stops. Get out and stretch. Take that pee you’ll regret not taking later. And when it comes to food, pack as much as storage will allow. Fruit is a good snack, and you can toss the waste right out the window: it’s biodegradable.

The best way to ensure that you stop frequently is to load up on water, soda, and/or coffee. Nothing gets the juices flowing like lots of liquids. Our favorite road food, believe it or not, is cola and chili-flavored corn chips. Scoff if you like, but medical research has proven that chili-flavored corn chips irritate your stomach lining, gnaw at your intestines, and head straight for your bowels. When the cola you’re drinking aggravates the entire process with sugar, caffeine, and other, ah, less natural ingredients, you’ll have to stop every fifty miles to pee and buy antacids.

This diet might slow you down a little with all those pee breaks, but that gurgling in your stomach will keep you from dozing off behind the wheel. And arriving safely is always our first concern. It should be yours as well.

Lessons Learned: While it’s true that it might take you a few days to get over the physical strain fueled by a diet of soda and chili-flavored corn chips, you are going to need a few days to adjust even without the junk food. You might as well do it and stay safe. The lesson will steer you toward flying next time.
How We Saw It
Blight-Seeing: 1 (depending on the part of the country you’re driving through)
Communication Breakdown: 1 (unless you talk to yourself)
Customer Dis-service: 1
Discomfort Level: 3
Grunge Factor: 2
Inactivity Guide: 5
Rent-Attainment: 2
Spontaneous Consumption: 2
Fun Fraction: 1/5
Vibe-Rating: 2

If You Won’t Listen to Us
Nearest Airport: You might want to fly home
Native Population: 1—You, alone in the car, for hours and hours and hours and . . .
Normal Attractions: Counting the different state license plates, trying to find anything on the radio besides talking heads and country music, singing along to country songs, sideswiping RVs.
Final Point of Interest: We don’t actually recommend our readers eat roadkill, although we have actually had raccoon, moose, and deer . . . under less questionable circumstances.