“On The Road Again” *

I awake to sunshine and blue skies out of the window, and the bedroom is brighter. The bathroom is definitely too small and cramped but the bedroom is OK though. Breakfast is good again and the bananas are back. Back up in the room I pack up and depart, leaving the hotel around 9.40 am. It’s about a 15 minutes walk to the Dollar car rental garage on Charles Street.

On arrival, the paperwork is quickly sorted out – apart from a dispute about the one-way fee. I realise there’s no point in arguing here, I’ll have to pay the higher amount they say is due and sort it out back home. The car, a silver Chrysler Malibu, is outside on the street. I check it for damage and spend quite a long time familiarising myself with the car and its controls. Previously I’ve picked a car up, done a quick once over, and set off, figuring things out on the road. But this year I spent some extra time as I was in the centre of New York and didn’t want any distractions.

On The Road

Road Trip Radio!

Around 11 am I drive off in the Village and then Google Maps guides me through Manhattan. Then its into the Holland Tunnel under the Hudson River on I-78, onto I-95 S, destination Philadelphia. There’s not much to see on the way there, even when I come off the Interstate. Only when I come to the Benjamin E. Franklin Bridge over the Delaware River and into the state of Pennsylvania, and Philadelphia itself, is there some ‘interest’. Maps routes me right to my hotel, the Alexander Inn, just after 1 pm. There’s no parking at the hotel so I pre-booked a space with ParkWhiz a couple of blocks away. I’m early for my designated check-in time but luckily there’s a room available and the cheery chaps on reception are very helpful.

Up in the elevator to my room – to find the door does not open! Back to reception, man comes up to help, door still doesn’t open. He disappears, comes back 10 minutes later with another room key on another floor – which this time works. I ask the guy would he watch my car as I’m illegally parked outside – there was a ‘no parking’ restriction due to roadworks – and I’ll be 2 minutes just to dump my bags. Soon back downstairs I find the chap has physically gone outside and he is standing by the car! He explains that the traffic police are really aggressive in ticketing and only by being with the car would he be able to hopefully prevent a ticket if an officer showed up. Whatever, I thank him for his sterling service. Impressed, I am.

On The Bus Again

Big Bus PhiladelphiaOff to the garage, which goes smoothly, and I see a Big Bus go by just as I hand over the keys. This is a hop-on, hop-off city tour and I need to figure out when the next one is due, which hopefully will give me time to get some lunch. I call them and they say 30 minutes, so I head off in search of food. Down a side street there’s a pizza place on the corner so I enter and order a couple of slices, and sit at the window munching away.

Back outside in good time and the Big Bus duly arrives. It’s a typical bus tour and will turn out to be as good as they usually are. The weather is hot and sunny, 80º F, so the top deck is great place to see the sights as we tour around. I got on at stop 20 and when we arrive at stop 1 the guide implores us to visit the Liberty Bell exhibit just over the road. Which I do.

Philadelphia #1Liberty BellIndependence Hall #1Independence Hall #2Independence Hall #3

The next bus leaves in 45 minutes so that should be plenty of time I hope. Across some parkland there’s a building housing the Bell. There are lots of boards with information about the Bell beforehand, which is useful for a Brit who doesn’t know its history. After that, and just over the street, is Independence Hall. This is touted as “the birthplace of America” because in said building, the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution were both debated and signed. I’m too late in the day for a guided tour though, ditto Congress Hall next door. This is where the US Congress first sat from 1790 to 1800, so I just walk around outside for a while.

However there is a small annex building that I can go in. Inside they have on display some of the original documents of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, which was interesting to see. There’s also a Visitor Center nearby, but I didn’t have the time to visit. Overall though, this ‘attraction’ is definitely worth taking time out to see, as it’s a real part of US history.

It’s then back to stop 1 for the rest of the tour. We set off again and the latter part is as good as the first. Philadelphia has a nice mixture of old and new architecture. The guide tells the city’s story and history well, with the usual anecdotes that you wouldn’t know unless you did the tour. We pass by the Museum of Art with its large steps out front, made famous in the movie Rocky. Back at stop 20 I leave the bus to walk back to the hotel. It’s a nice city visually plus of course it has a unique place in the history of the USA. I’m glad I finally got to see and experience it.

Philadelphia #9Philadelphia #10Philadelphia #11 - 'Rocky Steps'Philadelphia #12Philadelphia #13

After a short 5 minute walk I’m back at the hotel. Diary time I think and, after sorting things out for tomorrow, I walk down the street to a bar on the corner called Tria Cafe Wash West. It’s still warm (and humid) and, despite the traffic, I decide to sit at a table outside whilst sipping a cold beer and writing this. Very pleasant. 😉

Mikey Junior At The Twisted Tail

I stayed at the bar until 7 pm, but on venturing out for dinner around 8.15 pm the weather is a bit more comfortable. I’m going to The Twisted Tail, which is a bar that has live music, generally the blues, most nights. For transport I checked out both Uber and Lyft to find that the latter was much cheaper, albeit for a shared ride, plus they’d given me some credit. For why I don’t know, but I may as well use it.

But when my driver Jean-Pierre turns up he tells me the other passenger cancelled so I’m on my own. JP chats amicably and we arrive at the Twisted Tail in about 7-8 minutes. The cost of the trip is… $0! Don’t ask me how or why, must be to do with the credit they gave me. I’m not complaining.

The Twisted Tail

Mikey Junior business card

Mikey Junior business card

There aren’t many folks inside the TT, and the air con is a bit fierce, making it quite cold. Mikey Junior and Filthy Rich are already playing, Mikey on vocals and harmonica, Rich on guitar. They are joined tonight by a mate, Phil, playing guitar as well. And that’s it. Guitar and vocals, and pure blues is what they play. Lots of Robert Johnson, Willie Dixon and others, plus some of Mikey’s originals. It’s excellent stuff, real raw and powerful blues music, as it was meant to be played. Pity there’s only a handful of souls to watch them play. Rich and Mikey have a regular Wednesday night gig at the TT, so if you’re in Philly, go and see them – they’re great.

Filthy Rich & Mikey Jr

Filthy Rich & Mikey Jr

Mikey asked for requests and I shouted out Dust My Broom and he replied they’d already played it! It said they were on at 8 pm but I figured most musicians are late on stage, so arrived at 8.25 pm. So I was wrong this time and missed the start… But Mikey said they’d play it again, but he then went on a break, leaving Rich on his own to play and sing a few songs.

The Twisted Tail beer mat

The Twisted Tail beer mat

I got talking to Mikey on his break and ended up telling him about my visit to Robert Johnson’s various ‘graves’. I showed him the photos of the ‘real’ one and he asked me to email them to him. So the next day I did just that and he replied with thanks a couple of days later, and “Safe travels, my friend.” A really nice guy.

On his return they did play Dust My Broom and Mikey dedicated it to me! The beer was good at the Twisted Tail but the food a bit odd. “Small plates” they called them and they really were, with hardly any quantity of ribs or wings when I asked. So I had a burger. Which turned up with just a pickle, no option for fries or anything. Very strange.

Time to depart and I shake each of the band by the hand as I leave just as my second Lyft of the evening pulls up outside. This time there is someone on-board plus we pick up another person as well. The driver was very friendly again and luckily I was first drop-off – and again, no charge! So my first Lyft experiences were much better than Uber last year. Both drivers also commented that Lyft is much better to work for than Uber.

I get back around 11 pm. A good day overall, the first short drive of the trip wasn’t up to much but the rest of the day was good and interesting. Let’s hope for more of the same, or better.

* On The Road Again by Canned Heat – I think I’ve used this before, but what the hell…

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