Tag Archives: swamp

My Trip to Delaware, Part Four: Hotel, Day 2, and Home

17 May

May 17, 2013

The Imponderable will return next week, but if you are looking for an Imponderable, then ask yourself what the heck I was supposed to get out of this trip.


We were stuck in a far off hotel. Because the Company event was so big, people from all over the country converged on Wilmington, only to be disappointed with Wilmington. In the weeks before the event, we were never given clear direction on how to bill the Company for the hotel so we would, just for kicks, go online and watch as hotel after hotel got booked. Finally we got the go-ahead and we booked. The four of us booked individually instead of our team supervisor simply booking four rooms. This was a problem.

Although we all went online to book at the same time, somehow the other three members of my team got rooms at the corporate rate while I was told that the last three rooms were just booked. To make a long story short, I ended up getting a much better room than they did. (Allan Keyes grew hot with jealousy over it in this post.) But honestly, for an overnight it was way too much of a room. It was so big that if it had a kitchen I would have lived there. It had a Jacuzzi, a pair of flat screen TV’s, and a view that was to die for.

Sorry, I mean a view that made me want to kill myself.

I took this picture from the bedroom. This was the view from half the hotel. The other half had a worse view.

I took this picture from the bedroom. This was the view from half the hotel. The other half had a worse view.

The hotel itself was awesome- indoor glass elevators, sweeping chandeliers, elegant piano in the lobby, all new and beautiful with indoor views of the restaurant and lounge. The hotel had to be good because if it was a dump no one would have stayed there. It was in the middle of nowhere. Literally

It was at the intersection of two highways and a swamp.

I mean that literally and truthfully. The hotel was a gleaming spire in the middle of fields of weeds and swampland. After we arrived (40 minutes later, taking the Bataan death march of van rides) we went straight to our rooms and agreed to meet in the lobby for dinner later.

Everyone else was enjoying the admittedly limited nightlife of Wilmington, walking around the pier, eating in nice restaurants, catching a movie or shopping, and we had zero to do. We had a quiet meal together in which my boss began her sentences no less than infinity times with “I know you think I don’t like you and annoy you but…”

But the food was good.

After we ate it was only 7:00 and what was there to do? Nothing, I went outside on the hopes that there might be a 7-11 nestled against the hotel, or even an interesting hobo, but there was nothing.  On two sides there were highways cutting through the fields and on the other sides swamps. So at 7:30 was in my room enjoying the Jacuzzi, then by 9 I was asleep in a gigantic bed with maybe 25 pillows strewn around me.

 Checkout time was 7 (for us so we could take that van ride back to the center) and what did we do the rest of the day? Honesty, I won’t bore you. Suffice it to say I caught up on my sleep that afternoon.

Going home I was hoping to get a seat on the other side of the train so I could see what was on the other side of the rust belt but the only empty seats were on the same side. Much as I liked the scenery it was getting dark and I read- really read this time- The Exorcist until we arrived in New York, then I took the N train home.

Bad as it all was, the worst part was the next day back in the office when I saw all the work that had piled up in our absence.

The Good: The hotel room- Jacuzzi, super-king size bed, jumbo TV
The Bad: Everything else

And I never did tell the rest of my team that the Company paid for me to have a hotel room five times better than theirs. I consider that payback for the rest of the trip.

My actual room, Jacuzzi not shown

My actual room, Jacuzzi not shown

My Trip to Delaware, Part Two: Amtrak

15 May

May 15, 2013

My boss and I boarded the train. No matter what Penn Station looks like above, below it is as grimy as any other NYC train station.

I took a window seat a couple of rows back from my boss and settled in. The seat was comfortable and there were outlets under the window so I was able to charge my iPod during the ride. Eventually someone sat next to me and the only minor inconvenience of the entire trip was that, to charge his laptop, the power cord had to run past my legs to get to the outlets.

I pulled down the tray from the back of the seat ahead of me and took out my book. I planned to read and listen to music on the trip, and maybe even catch a nap. For the first five minutes I stuck to the plan and read a couple of pages, but then we came out of the tunnel, left the city, and in the blink of an eye were in, well, not the country, but rural back roads. It reminded me of Batman where the Batmobile leave the Batcave and is instantly in Gotham city, only in reverse.  I knew we were in New Jersey because the train tracks took us through some seemingly endless swamps.

At this point I put down my book and never picked it up again. From here on the scenery fascinated me. None of it was beautiful in the traditional sense, and in fact much of it was downright ugly, but all of it had as undefinable sense of Americana to it. We didn’t pass through expensive neighborhoods and fancy towns, we rode through the old industrial Northeast, a place of abandoned factories, rusty hulks of cars, trucks, trains, and buildings, a place of old towns, run down homes, and on the whole, shadows and remnants of an America where people actually built things and sold things to each other.

My only regret is that I could not take pictures from the swift-moving train.

brasovFactoryAt one point we passed an abandoned Congoleum factory. Congoleum still makes floor tiles and other flooring products, but they left this area years ago. The factory still had the faded letters on the smokestack, but the main building was, like most of the factories we passed, in a state of collapse. Whole walls were gone, you could see right through the building. I passed dozens of factories, but none of them looked like they had produced a single item in the last three decades.

Meanwhile, the swamps of New Jersey were left behind, but not before one of the stranger sights I saw. From the moment we entered the swamp, a series of telephone poles were running parallel to us through the water. They were all half-sunken in the swamp but the lines were unbroken, giving the impression that they were still carrying live phone lines. But before the poles ended, the phone lines from the last pole went directly down into the swamp. They hadn’t fallen, they left the pole at a taught 45 degree angle and went, purposefully it seemed, into the swamp.



Immediately after that Twilight Zone scene we roared over a bridge which, hand to my heart, seemed to be made entirely out of rust. The rain let out a totally cartoony sounding “choo-choo!” and we were on solid ground.

If you want to see the rustic side of America, you must travel by train. But be warned, this route really puts the rust in rustic. I saw so many rusted out vehicles that my eyeballs needed a tetanus shot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAmerica’s back roads really are fascinating. On a side track, I saw a genuine Northwest Pacific cattle car. On old billboards I saw faded mottoes. (“Trenton makes the world takes.”)
I saw backyards where people constructed whole other houses out of tires and old toys.
I passed through an area that may have been part of the New Jersey Pine Barrens where I saw nothing but fields and fields of downed trees left over from Hurricane Sandy, and other than the train passengers, probably no other people would see them.
I saw one grove of standing trees where hundreds of white plastic bags were hung from the lowest branches, none more than six feet off the ground. They looked might they could have been bird or animal feeders but I could not tell.

The economy really hit this area hard. Amtrak and other rail lines, just by their very nature, are going to run through industrial or poor areas, but I saw towns with almost no people on the streets at 9 am, shopping centers that were open but whose parking lots were empty, and many, many homes in desperate need of repair.



This may all sound sad and in many ways it was, but I did not take my eyes off the scenery the whole trip.  I arrived in Wilmington and put my book back in my bag, only four pages read.



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